06.29.20

As DOL Calls Employees Back to Offices, Senator Murray Urges Scalia to Protect DOL Employees and Issue Enforceable Workplace Safety Standards for Workers Across the Country

Secretary Scalia instructed some DOL employees to return to their workplaces without a safety plan—even though many DOL offices are located in areas with high rates of COVID-19

 

Senator Murray slams Scalia’s risky decision and urges him to issue enforceable safety standards to protect his employees and all workers

 

Senator Murray: “Your employees and all workers across this country deserve to be protected before they are ordered back to work—and, given your role and authority, you have the unique ability to provide them with that protection”
 

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, urged Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia to reconsider his dangerous decision to put Department of Labor (DOL) employees at risk by instructing them to return to their workplaces without a clear safety plan—even though many DOL regional and district offices are located in areas with high rates of COVID-19 infection and hospitalization.

 

“Ensuring the health and safety of workers transitioning back to their workplaces is of the utmost importance. Given your unique duty within the Federal Government to ensure the health and safety of all workers, I am especially troubled by your decision to put at risk your own employees, the staff who make it possible to protect and enforce the rights of all other workers across the country,” wrote Senator Murray in a letter to Secretary Scalia.

 

In her letter, Senator Murray also called on Secretary Scalia to take steps to protect workers across the country by finally issuing enforceable workplace safety and health standards, in the form of an Emergency Temporary Standard, to protect workers and stop allowing employers to neglect worker health and safety without fear of penalty.

 

“Your employees and all workers across this country deserve to be protected before they are ordered back to work—and, given your role and authority, you have the unique ability to provide them with that protection. I urge you to reconsider your decision regarding the return of DOL employees and to take immediate, long-overdue action to protect all workers across the country,” wrote Senator Murray in a letter to Secretary Scalia.

 

The full letter is below and HERE.


June 29, 2020

 

The Honorable Eugene Scalia

Secretary

U.S. Department of Labor

200 Constitution Ave, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20210

 

Dear Secretary Scalia:

 

I write to express my deep concern with your decision to instruct Department of Labor (DOL) political appointees and senior career executives to return to their offices and begin a “phased” return of DOL career employees across the country, without a clear and uniform plan or timeline to provide for your employees’ safety.[1]

 

Ensuring the health and safety of workers transitioning back to their workplaces is of the utmost importance. Given your unique duty within the Federal Government to ensure the health and safety of all workers, I am especially troubled by your decision to put at risk your own employees, the staff who make it possible to protect and enforce the rights of all other workers across the country. Many of the communities where DOL regional and district offices are located continue to see high rates of COVID-19 infection and hospitalization, making their return to their workplaces even more potentially dangerous. Yet, DOL has not created a clear and uniform plan for the safe return of employees to their workplaces, creating potential confusion and inadequate protection for DOL employees.[2]

 

Furthermore, this is a remarkable step given your refusal to issue enforceable workplace safety and health standards during this pandemic. As Secretary of Labor, you have the responsibility and the statutory authority to ensure the protection of our nation’s private sector and federal workers during the COVID-19 crisis. However, at your direction, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has provided only guidance, and has not issued a single enforceable safety standard that employers are required to follow, allowing employers to neglect worker health and safety without fear of penalty.[3]

 

I urge you to immediately take action and issue a clear, uniform health and safety plan for the return of your employees before any additional employees are ordered back to work and to fulfill your responsibility to ensure worker safety by directing OSHA to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard for infectious disease.

 

Your employees and all workers across this country deserve to be protected before they are ordered back to work—and, given your role and authority, you have the unique ability to provide them with that protection. I urge you to reconsider your decision regarding the return of DOL employees and to take immediate, long-overdue action to protect all workers across the country.

 

Sincerely,

 

Patty Murray

Ranking Member

Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions

 

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[1] DOL to Begin Reopening Offices, Sending Senior Staff Back, Bloomberg Government; https://www.bgov.com/core/news/#!/articles/QC1G23T1UM11.

[2] Ibid.

[3] OSHA Needs to Protect Workers From Getting Coronavirus On the Job, The New York Times; https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/21/opinion/coronavirus-osha-work-safety.html.