Employers Challenge To California’s COVID-19 Protections is (Very) Short-sighted
According to an article published by EHS Today, numerous employer groups are attacking the State of California over important COVID-19 emergency standards issued by the state’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA).
The standards were issued to protect workers.
The lawsuit filed December 16 by the National Retail Federation (NRF), the National Federation of Independent Business and three individual small business employers alleged legal “overreach” by state employment safety agencies. The employers “assert that the new rules were imposed with little advance public notice or opportunity for comment on employers already struggling under other state and local pandemic restrictions,” according to EHS Today.
NRF’s chief administrative officer and general counsel, Stephanie Martz, has said, “With this emergency rule, the state is shifting more of the cost of public health and safety onto the backs of employers, many of which have been instructed to close at differing times this year.” She argues that “Even the most well-intentioned employer could find itself unable to implement these costly rules and be forced to close. Job losses will accelerate as businesses close in communities large and small.”
The employers told the court that Cal/OSHA placed restrictions on businesses despite a “complete lack of data” about workplace exposure to COVID-19 and how to deal with COVID-19 exposure properly.
One specific concern raised by the lawsuit is the stringent COVID-19 testing requirements that apply equally to employers with five or 5,000 employees and do not offer adjustments in threshold levels for employers of differing sizes. The plaintiffs also point out that the ETS shifts the burden of COVID-19 testing from public health officials to employers, despite a “lack of data and science” connecting COVID-19 spread in the workplace.
The employers also say that Cal/OSHA had failed to consider the nationwide rollout of a comprehensive vaccination program implemented when the rules were being finalized. Thus, the ETS does not state how employers should treat employees immune from the virus due to vaccination.
Martz says, “In its rush to regulate, Cal/OSHA has failed to acknowledge the continuing efforts and safety protocols put in place by retailers to protect their workers and customers, not to mention the extensive reopening criteria developed by the governor.” Martz continues, “Instead, Cal/OSHA has improperly exercised its emergency power by imposing costly and confusing regulations with little notice and no substantial opportunity for employers to participate in the process.”
COVID-19 disease can cause symptoms ranging from mild to permanent damage and even death. Employee’s who can’t work damage the “bottom line”. Worker safety protocols benefit employees and employers. Not that hard to understand when you think about it.
Yet, in their knee jerk reaction to common-sense solutions, the “anti-regulation” crowd seems hellbent on killing regulations that may save lives – and businesses.
Tragic and ironic.