The Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019, or COVID-19, has severely impacted the nation while raising many legal questions and issues. Businesses throughout Maryland have closed to help mitigate the spread of the virus. However, essential employees have been braving work during the pandemic. Now, as the country attempts to slowly reopen, there is a heightened concern for worker safety. Additionally, there are legal questions surrounding liability and exposure to the coronavirus due to contact with fellow employees and the general public.
If you have suffered the loss of a loved one because they contracted COVID-19 during the course of their employment, contact our Maryland attorney for fatal coronavirus exposure at work. Our attorneys have over four decades of combined experience fighting for the rights of workers in Maryland. Call the Law Offices of Randolph Rice at (410) 694-7291 to schedule a free consultation.
OSHA and CDC Guidelines to Prevent Fatal Coronavirus Exposure to Employees at Maryland Businesses
Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have published recommendations and guidelines to limit the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace.
Typically, OSHA standards are carefully developed and enjoy the same enforceability as law. However, as the pandemic swept quickly across the country, the recent OSHA recommendations were rapidly proposed and lack the same authority as previously issued guidelines. Nonetheless, the recommendations from the CDC and OSHA provide a framework of systems and protocols that Maryland employers should implement to limit the risk of infection among their employees.
- Companies should have comprehensive coronavirus plans in place, including providing information and training to employees regarding the risks of exposure, measures to mitigate those risks, and ways to recognize symptoms of COVID-19.
- Maryland employers need to have procedures in place in case an employee should become ill. The health of employees should be monitored. Any worker showing symptoms of the coronavirus should be isolated from other employees and placed on sick leave until they test negative for the virus.
- Businesses need to provide a work environment that allows for social distancing among the workers. If the nature of the business makes this impossible, then protective measures should be taken, such as installing plastic shields for clerks that deal directly with the public. This would also include providing employees masks and gloves.
- Employers need to ensure their employees have access to adequate and fully stocked wash stations or restrooms.
- The workplace must be regularly cleaned and disinfected to limit the risk of spreading COVID-19.
The “General Duty Clause” for Maryland Employers During COVID-19
While the recommendations of the CDC and OSHA lack enforceability, Maryland employers must still adhere to OSHA’s “General Duty Clause.” There are thousands of pages of rules and regulations businesses must follow to comply with OSHA standards. However, those standards do not cover every possible situation. The “General Duty Clause” is a blanket regulation to address those issues not explicitly mentioned. Under OSHA 29 U.S.C. Section 654, 5(a)1, Maryland employers must provide their employees with a work environment that is free of recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or significant physical harm. Because COVID-19 is a recognized danger to employees’ health, our attorneys believe there is a strong legal argument that a Maryland business must implement the CDC and OSHA guidelines to be in full compliance with the “General Duty Clause.”
Holding Maryland Employers Liable for Deaths from Fatal Exposure to COVID-19
Usually, compensation for any injury or death suffered in the workplace is obtained through a workers’ compensation claim. Unfortunately, workers’ comp rarely covers viral diseases such as cold or the flu. Because of the nature of the coronavirus, state and local governments have been considering exemptions to these exclusions. At the time of this writing, there has been no controlling ruling issue, but the legal landscape is continually changing. The dedicated staff and attorneys at the Law Offices of Randolph Rice are monitoring all legal developments.
Employment liability law concerning COVID-19 is uncertain at this point, but we believe Maryland businesses owe employees a greater duty due to the danger of the virus. In courts across the country, the first few wrongful death lawsuits have been filed against employers who have failed to take adequate measures to limit the risk of exposure to the coronavirus. While the exact facts differ, the underlying argument is similar in each case. If an employee contracts COVID-19 and the employer willfully and wantonly refused or failed to implement the current OSHA and CDC recommendations, then their actions could constitute negligence. Once negligence is established, the employer could potentially be held accountable for any injuries or deaths that occur due to contracting the virus while engaged in employment. Our attorneys have decades of experience representing the families of those killed in the workplace and have been thoroughly reviewing every new legal development related to this unprecedented pandemic.
Call our Maryland Attorney for Fatal Coronavirus Exposure at Work for a Free Consultation
You have every expectation that your loved one will return home from work safely and healthy. Now, due to the spread of COVID-19, jobs that once seemed harmless are risky. While individuals can take precautions to limit their exposure to the coronavirus, they anticipate that their employers will take similar steps to ensure their safety. When Maryland businesses fail to implement reasonable safety measures, an unsuspecting worker could contract a deadly strain of the coronavirus. If you have lost a loved one to COVID-19, contact our Maryland attorney for fatal coronavirus exposure at work immediately. Our attorneys bring a depth of skill and over forty years of combined experience to this new legal challenge. To schedule a free, confidential appointment, call the Law Offices of Randolph Rice at (410) 694-7291.