Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Labor and Industry
Safety and Health Codes Board
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6/17/20  4:04 pm
Commenter: Steven Vogel

Comments on emergency regulations to protect workers at their jobs against COVID-19

I strongly support the proposed emergency regulation and thank the Governor and the DOLI leadership for producing such a critically needed proposed regulation.

Positive Comments:  Overall, I am pleased with the proposed emergency regulations.  Requiring (and not just “suggesting”) employers protect workers is important.  In addition, the regulations:

  • Provide clear guidance to employers about their responsibilities and to employees about what they should expect.
  • Recognize different levels of risk in different kinds of workplaces.
  • Require extra preparedness for high and medium risk workplaces.
  • Provide education and training for employers.
  • Protect workers against retaliation.Concerns:  I have the following concerns about the proposed regulation:
  • The section on sick leave is inadequate.  Unfortunately, a health and safety regulation cannot require employers to provide paid sick days to workers.  (Virginia’s General Assembly should have passed a Paid Sick Day bill in the last session.  The bill passed the House, but not the Senate.)  The proposed regulation begins with “To the extent feasible and permitted by law,” that essentially allows employers to say that it is not feasible to ensure flexible sick leave.  The regulation should simply say that employers must ensure that workers have flexibility in using their sick time.  Because 41 percent of workers in Virginia have no paid sick time--no PTO or anything, even requiring flexibility is inadequate when two-fifths of workers have no paid sick time.  I believe that the Governor should issue an additional emergency regulation (or address the issue in the Special Session) requiring employers to provide paid sick time off to ensure that workers who are sick do not go to work.
  • Extra resources should be given to DOLI to do outreach to workers in multiple languages.  Reaching workers quickly about the regulation is critical.  Although DOLI claims it has the internal resources to handle the education, given the need to reach out quickly and to multiple language groups all over the stand, the agency should be given extra outreach resources.
  • Employers that provide housing, such as farms that employ migrant farmworkers, need requirements for safeguarding workers in the housing.  If workers are housed by their employers in extremely close sleeping and cooking quarters, they could be infected in employer-provided housing.  Thus, additional regulations are needed for these employers.

Thank you for this opportunity to share my thoughts with all of you.

CommentID: 80335