While individual employees are responsible for taking actions to protect themselves against COVID-19, companies can be held liable for failing to take the proper precautions to prevent transmission in the workplace.
Businesses in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and throughout the state have begun reopening in the aftermath of widespread closures due to the coronavirus pandemic. While stay-at-home orders have been lifted and life is slowly beginning to return to normal, it is important to be mindful that case counts of COVID-19 in Oklahoma continue to climb. Those returning to work have valid concerns regarding the transmission of the virus between employees. Companies can be held liable in a workers’ compensation claim or lawsuit for failing to take the proper precautions to protect their workers.
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Employer Obligations to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19
Hot-spots across the U.S. that previously had high coronavirus case counts appear to be over the worst of the pandemic. As a result, efforts on the part of national leaders are now focused on encouraging financial recovery. Businesses that were either closed or had reduced hours during the months of March through May are slowly calling workers back and operating on regular schedules.
Unfortunately, the latest statistics from the Oklahoma Department of Health indicate that new cases of COVID-19 continue to crop up throughout the state. To prevent numbers from surging during reopening efforts, employers have an obligation to follow strict guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These include:
- Ensuring regularly scheduled cleaning/sanitizing of all work services;
- Maintaining social distancing for employees;
- Providing proper ventilation in in their place of business;
- Encouraging workers to wear masks, as appropriate;
- Conducting daily health checks, which includes screening for COVID-19 symptoms among employees.
Employers who fail to take these precautions could find themselves at the center of an outbreak. They could also face liability in lawsuits and workers’ compensation claims.
Holding Employers Liable if You Contract the Virus
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed by the President at the height of the pandemic. In addition to providing financial help for individuals and businesses, it also addressed liability issues employers could face as a result of COVID-19 in the workplace.
The act directly limits liability among health care providers. However, for other types of workers, the guidelines are less clear. Employees are responsible for taking precautions on the job, but companies have legal obligations, as well. When a worker becomes ill and is unable to work, he or she may be entitled to benefits through the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commision (WCC). If serious adverse effects occur due to the negligence of an employer, the company could be held liable for damages in a civil lawsuit.
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Reach Out to Our Oklahoma Employment Law Attorneys
BDIW Law provides the aggressive legal representation needed to protect your rights if you contract COVID-19 on the job. We serve clients through the Oklahoma City and Tulsa areas; call 918-728-6500 or contact our Oklahoma employment law attorneys online and request a consultation today.
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