Virginia Adopts First Coronavirus Workplace Safety Regulations
- Very High;
- Medium; and
All employers must, among other things:
- Assess their workplace for hazards and job tasks that can potentially expose employees to COVID-19;
- Classify each job tasks according to the hazards employees are potentially exposed to;
- Encourage employees to self-monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19;
- Establish a system to notify employees who may have been exposed within 24 hours of discovery of their possible exposure;
- Control or close access to common areas, break rooms, and lunch rooms;
- Ensure that employees comply with VOSH sanitation and disinfecting procedures applicable to the employer’s industry; and
- Utilize telework and staggered shifts where feasible.
Employers’ responsibilities under the standards vary based on employees’ risk designations. Employers with hazards or job tasks classified as “very high” and “high” “shall develop and implement a written Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan. Employers with eleven (11) or more employees and who have jobs classified as “medium” must also develop a written plan.
For the vast majority of white-collar employers in Northern Virginia, employees will be classified as lower risk. This is due to existing telework policies, staggered shifts, and adherence to social distancing. However, some jobs that are forward facing like a receptionist could qualify as “medium” depending on how much interaction with other employees and the general public those jobs entail.
In another win for employees, §16VAC25-220-90 prohibits an employer from discharging or discriminating against an employee because the employee has exercised rights under the safety and health provisions of the standard. Further, employers may not “discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee who raises a reasonable concern about infection control related to the SARS-CoV-2 virus and COVID-19 disease to the employer, the employer’s agent, other employees, a government agency, or to the public such as through print, online, social, or any other media.” As such, employees can publicly complain about their employers’ Coronavirus responses and employers cannot do anything.
Broderick C. Dunn and John C. Cook are partners in the Fairfax firm of Cook Craig & Francuzenko, PLLC. Their practice includes the representation of executives, employees, and small businesses in employment law matters and civil litigation. Follow them on Twitter @JohnCookVA and @broderick_dunn and connect with them on LinkedIN (https://www.linkedin.com/in/broderickdunn/) and (https://www.linkedin.com/in/john-cook-2300514/)