COVID-19, or the Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019, has adversely affected the country, the State of Maryland, and the city of Baltimore. “Shelter-in-place” orders and business closures were put into place to help mitigate the spread of the virus. As some businesses across the nation begin to reopen, and essential workers continue to work through the pandemic, numerous legal issues and questions have arisen. Foremost, is what legal liability do employers have for their employees who are sickened or killed by COVID-19 contracted in the course of their employment.
If you have lost a loved one due to complications of the coronavirus, contact our Baltimore attorney for fatal coronavirus exposure at work immediately. The legal difficulties facing families who lost someone due to COVID-19 need attorneys with the depth of skill and resources to embrace the challenge. At the Rice, Murtha & Psoras, our attorneys have 45 combined years of fighting for the rights of workers in Baltimore, Maryland, and the surrounding area. Call (410) 694-7291 to schedule a free appointment to review your legal claims.
Governmental Guidelines for Baltimore Businesses During Coronavirus
To help guide companies ensure the safety of their employees, the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have released detailed recommendations that outline precautionary measures employers should take to limit exposure to the coronavirus in the workplace.
OSHA standards provide employers enforceable guidelines to ensure the safety of their workforce. However, because of the rapid spread and necessary reaction to COVID-19, the recommendations issued by OSHA concerning the virus lack the authority of their previously issued regulations.
Based on the guidelines published by the CDC and OSHA, there are a number of precautionary measures Baltimore employers should implement to safeguard their employees.
- Employees should be provided with information and training in dealing with COVID-19, including methods and risk of transmission, noticeable symptoms, and ways to limit the risk of exposure between employees and the public.
- Baltimore businesses need to have systems to address employees who demonstrate symptoms of the virus. Protocols should detail what to do if an employee is ill, including mandating all sick workers are sent home.
- Social distancing is an essential tool in mitigating the spread of the coronavirus. Companies should configure their workspaces to allow the necessary distance between workers. If situations exist where this is not possible, additional precautionary measures should be implemented.
- In order to maintain proper hygiene, employees should have access to wash stations and restrooms.
- To further decrease the risk of spreading COVID-19, the entire work area should be regularly cleaned and disinfected.
Baltimore Employer’s Duty to Employees to Prevent Fatal Coronavirus Exposure at Work
The recent recommendations and guidelines impose no duty on Baltimore businesses. However, OSHA 29 U.S.C. Section 654, 5(a)1, or the “General Duty Clause,” is an enforceable OSHA standard. Under the provisions of the clause, Baltimore employers must ensure that their workers are safe from any known or recognized hazard in the workplace that could cause significant physical harm or death.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has recognized COVID-19 as a hazard to the health of employees. Therefore, under the provisions of the “General Duty Clause,” our knowledgeable attorneys believe a legal argument exists that Baltimore employers must reasonably address the risk of infection in the work environment. The published recommendations, coupled with the obligation under 29 U.S.C. Section 654, 5(a)1, created a framework to hold employers accountable if they do not implement the suggested measures.
Holding Baltimore Employers Liable for Deaths Resulting from Exposure to COVID-19
In ordinary circumstances, work-related injuries or fatalities are addressed through workers’ compensation claims. However, there are explicit exclusions for any harm attributable to viral contagions, such as the flu. Given the severity and unprecedented nature of the coronavirus, government agencies are reconsidering the authority of these exclusions. However, as of this writing, no definitive action has taken place.
The legal landscape surrounding COVID-19 is unclear and constantly shifting. Our dedicated attorneys have over four decades of experience handling complicated employment injury and death claims and are carefully exploring all current developments. Due to the infectious danger of the coronavirus, we believe employers in Baltimore owe their workers a heightened duty of care.
The first wrongful death lawsuits have recently been filed in courts in Philadelphia and Illinois. The specific facts may vary, but the arguments presented are similar. The complaints contend that employers who purposefully failed to implement reasonable measures to protect their employees were negligent and should be held accountable for any harm suffered. Examples of willful and wanton conduct include purposefully downplaying the risks involved in working with the public, failing to provide employees training or safety equipment, and not cleaning or disinfecting the work area. The template employers should follow are laid out in the recommendations set forth by the CDC and OSHA.
Call our Baltimore Attorney for Fatal Coronavirus Exposure at Work for a Free Appointment
Every worker in Baltimore should feel safe in their workspace. COVID-19 has presented an extraordinary risk to employees due to the highly infectious nature of the virus. Baltimore businesses have been provided precautionary recommendations and guidelines to follow to limit the risk of exposure to their employees. If you lost a family member or loved one because their employer failed to take reasonable measures to protect their workers from COVID-19, contact our Baltimore attorney for fatal coronavirus exposure at work. Our attorneys are bringing their knowledge, skill, resources, and over four decades of experience to fight for workers’ rights during this pandemic. Call the Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291 to schedule a free consultation.