AFL-CIO files suit to mandate federal COVID-19 workplace standards


The AFL-CIO said it is suing the federal agency in charge of ensuring the health and safety of U.S. workers   to turn voluntary employer protections against the coronavirus into mandatory ones.

The AFL-CIO, a group of 55 national and international labor unions that represent 12.5 million workers, filed the suit against the Occupational Safety and Health Administration May 18 in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. 

As stay-at-home orders across the country are lifted, the union is asking the court to compel OSHA to turn its voluntary guidelines on preparing workplaces for COVID-19 and protecting workers from virus exposure into "mandatory, legally-enforceable, COVID-19-specific duties on employers to protect workers" within 30 days.

The union also wants employers to be required to provide COVID-19-specific training and record illnesses.

OSHA said it has received 3,990 workplace complaints related to COVID-19 and closed 2,694 complaints as of May 17. This includes complaints in all industries.

But U.S. Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia has said that mandating workplace protections is unnecessary.

"The department is committed to protecting American workers during the pandemic, and OSHA has been working around the clock to that end. The department is confident it will prevail in this counterproductive lawsuit," a Labor Department spokesman said.


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