When it comes to concerns about contracting the coronavirus on the job, many essential workers are asking about their legal rights to refuse to perform certain job tasks if they believe they are unsafe and put them at risk of contracting the virus.
Dallas labor and employment attorney Rogge Dunn says the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) allows all employees, whether working for the government or a private company, to refuse to work when there are unsafe conditions that could cause death or serious injury. But, he adds, licensed, government employees who refuse to work in accordance with OHSA safety rules could receive pushback from the government.
“It creates a real dilemma for health care workers,” said Mr. Dunn. “When licensed employees working for the state decide to exercise their OSHA rights and walk off the job, they can be disciplined by the state. The state can censure or revoke a doctor, nurse or EMS technician’s license.
“Think of this situation — government health care workers refuse to work in a hospital because there are not enough masks and personal protective equipment. That situation is no different than a police officer saying, ‘I’m not going to a school where a mass shooting is occurring because I could get killed’ or a firefighter saying, ‘I’m not going into a burning building.’
“If licensed government workers refuse to work and that can endanger the citizens, arguably the government’s position will be that danger goes with the job you signed up for.”
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