MEMPHIS, Tenn. – As Memphis and other cities grapple with reopening their economies and businesses, the rules, norms and fears of governing the workplace are changing as fast as COVID-19 is spreading.
Whether you work in an office, in retail or a restaurant, it’s a new frontier.
“To me it’s almost like landing on a new planet in a spaceship,” said Memphis employment law attorney Alan Crone, “and you really don’t know what the landscape is going to look like until the doors of that spaceship open.”
Crone says questions are beginning to surface about what’s expected from the employer–and their employees–to ensure a safe work environment.
“Hopefully, employers are already thinking about innovative ways they can comply with requirements,” Crone said.
He says cities, counties and states do have safety guidelines to help protect employees.
“If you have a company that refuses to put those in place, then you may have some rights as a whistleblower if you refuse to remain silent,” Crone said.
Workers standing up for their rights and safety can file whistleblower complaints with OSHA online or by phone. but Crone admits it’s not an easy decision when workers are concerned about retaliation.
“I feel for those folks because that’s tough call,” Crone said, “because you may have a great lawsuit, but you’re rather have a job than a great lawsuit.”
He says before you take any action, try talking with your boss first.
“I think you need to get engaged in a dialogue with your employer, if you can. I think a lot of employers are going to be ignorant of what they can do, what they should do and what they’re required to do,” Crone said.
Crone recommends legally protecting yourself if your employer doesn’t do the right ting to protect you, your coworkers or customers.
“Then, I think you have a moral right and legal protection for standing up for yourself,” Crone said.
Retaliation against workers who report unsafe or unhealthy conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic is illegal. If you feel like your employer is retaliating against you, you can file complaints at OSHA website. You can also call 800-321-6742.