Everything that Donald Trump says, Tweets or does makes national news. His return to the White House after treatment for COVID-19 was notable in many ways, not the least for his dramatic removal of a mask before entering his home and the current workplace for hundreds of employees.
The president has long been dismissive of mask use, seldom wearing one himself and discouraging those around him from doing so as well. This anti-mask attitude likely contributed to him and several staffers contracting the virus.
The president’s return fueled a national conversation about masking in the workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has rules for reasonably protecting employees’ safety in the workplace and penalties for those who do not do it. Regarding masking, OSHA recommends mask use in the workplace but does not require it. States or local municipalities may have their own rules regarding this issue.
Nevertheless, 86% of businesses and organizations implemented mask use or considered mandating the use of masks, gloves and other gear to keep people safe. Moreover, 73% implemented or are considering medical screenings or temperature checks before entering the workplace.
Addressing the issue
Employees do have the right to speak up if their workplaces do not follow legal or recommended safety protocols. They can do this by taking the following steps:
- Talk to the manager: This is an excellent place to start, but it is best to familiarize yourself before the meeting.
- Go to HR: If the manager is not following protocols or dismisses concerns, it may make sense to go to the Human Resources department (if the company has one).
- Ask for an accommodation: The Americans with Disabilities Act allows a worker to ask for an accommodation. This can be done to protect vulnerable workers or if they have at-risk family members at home.
- Lodge a complaint: Workers can file a complaint with OSHA, the local health department or the state attorney general’s office. It is worth noting that OSHA protects workers from employer retaliation for voicing a complaint. Depending on the complaint, the agency may make an onsite inspection.
Protecting employee rights
There are many laws in place that protect employees’ rights. Those who believe they are forced to endure an unsafe work environment may also wish to speak with an attorney who handles employment law. They can advocate for the worker in many different ways, particularly when there is evidence of reckless endangerment or retaliation.