Biden Administration Takes Steps To Protect Essential Workers During Pandemic

President Joe Biden’s administration has begun taking steps to help protect essential workers from the transmission of COVID-19. Currently, these steps are in the form of a list of guidelines and suggestions, but additional, enforceable, actions are promised to follow.

Joe Biden moves to protect workers
[Photographer: Shawn Thew/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images]

According to USA Today, the current new standards don’t include any obligation for corporations to comply, and are currently just advice and recommendations for companies that want to protect their workers.

However, this is expected to change. Newly-appointed deputy assistant secretary of OSHA Jim Frederick said that more actions will be forthcoming. OSHA spokespeople have explained that drafting the guidance was the first step, and as the agency reaches out to unions, businesses, and other stakeholders, decisions will be made about enforcement.

One encouraging item in the new guidelines is a call for employers to find ways to encourage infected or exposed employees to stay home, without punitive measures.

Even before the pandemic, workers feeling obligated to show up when feeling ill was a problem — NBC reported in November of 2019 that 90% of workers were going to their jobs even when they were sick. Poll respondents said that they felt there was too much work for them to stay home, or that they felt pressure from employers to not miss a day.

Since COVID-19 hit, the message that anyone feeling ill should stay home has been disseminated widely, but across the country attorneys are still taking wrongful termination cases for employees fired while sick, as the National Law Review covers here. If Biden’s plan going forward addresses this it will surely be a balm to anxious workers.

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