Gaps in Worker Protections that Increase Essential Workers’ Exposure to COVID-19
Burris, S., de Guia, S., Gable, L., Levin, D.E., Parmet, W.E., Terry, N.P. (Eds.) (2021). COVID-19 Policy Playbook: Legal Recommendations for a Safer, More Equitable Future. Boston: Public Health Law Watch.
6 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2021 Last revised: 24 Apr 2021
Date Written: 2021
States and localities designated more than 55 million Americans as essential workers. Essential workers not only comprise those employed by the health care and food and agriculture industry, but also include teachers, grocery store workers, transit and airline workers, mail and delivery workers, energy sector and utility workers, and domestic workers (Petition for Emergency, 2020). Racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately employed as essential workers, with Black Americans the most likely to be essential workers (Petition for Emergency, 2020). Essential workers have been left vulnerable to workplace COVID-19 infections and deaths in large part due to the federal and state government’s failure to enforce health and safety laws (Yearby, 2020). Volume I discussed the need to issue airborne infectious disease specific laws and regulations to prevent workplace COVID-19 infections and deaths. This Chapter will examine how the lack of protective equipment, punitive attendance policies, and the failure to track workplace infections have left essential workers vulnerable to workplace COVID-19 infections and deaths. This paper was prepared as part of the COVID-19 Policy Playbook: Legal Recommendations for a Safer, More Equitable Future, a comprehensive report published by Public Health Law Watch in partnership with the de Beaumont Foundation and the American Public Health Association.
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