Can I be fired for raising workplace safety concerns with my employer?
No. Under the Public Health Emergency Whistleblower Law (“PHEW”), an employer cannot retaliate against you for raising reasonable concerns about a workplace’s threats to your health or safety, including by firing you or changing your schedule.
Does the Public Health Emergency Whistleblower Law (“PHEW”) protect independent contractors, too?
Yes. If you are an independent contractor and you have been terminated from your role for speaking up about workplace safety conditions, the company you contracted with owes you a substantial penalty for this violation.
Do the protections of the Public Health Emergency Whistleblower Law (“PHEW”) apply to undocumented workers?
Yes. PHEW protects all workers the same, regardless of immigration status and regardless of whether a worker has work authorization to work in the United States legally or is a U.S citizen.
I’m afraid of getting COVID-19. Can I work from home?
Not necessarily. Generally, workers do not have the legal right to work from home unless your employer allows it. If you have a qualified disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, however, working from home may sometimes be a reasonable accommodation. If you believe you may qualify, you should discuss an accommodation with your employer.
Can I get fired if I get sick?
No. If you are or may be sick, with COVID-19 or another contagious illness, we urge you not to go to work or risk infecting others. Several laws, including Colorado’s PHEW and HFWA laws protect workers from getting fired due to serious health conditions, and if you become sick with COVID-19 because of your work, you may be eligible for workers compensation.
What do I do if my employer makes me work under unsafe conditions that could cause me to get COVID-19?
Report them to OSHA. After you report the problem to your employer, file a complaint with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This also applies to other unsafe working conditions, such as poor air quality, hazardous chemicals and PPE. Legally, your employer cannot retaliate against you for reporting unsafe conditions to them or to a federal or the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Remember that complaining about the problem may not resolve the problem quickly, though. If your workplace is unsafe, you have the right to stop working, and you may be able to argue later that you had “just cause” to quit, which makes you eligible for unemployment insurance, or that you were subject to an unlawful termination and thus entitled to damages. Towards Justice cannot make any guarantees that these arguments will be successful, however.
Can my employer prohibit me from discussing health and safety concerns at work with management or my coworkers?
No. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) protects your right to work together with your coworkers to demand better policies from your employer in order to safely perform your job, such as employer-provided personal protection equipment. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also offers retaliation protections for those who report workplace health and safety violations.
What if my employer remains open but seems like it’s nonessential and should therefore be closed under state or local order?
Report them to your local public health agency. Find the right agency here. If you don’t receive a prompt response from that office, you should also submit a report to the Colorado Attorney General’s Office by emailing email@example.com. Towards Justice can make an anonymous report for you, but we urge you to contact public officials directly first.