According to Sky Chadde of Investigate Midwest, Pennsylvania food processing plant workers filed a lawsuit against the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) at the beginning of the pandemic because their employer did not provide them with face coverings or enough space to follow the federal government's social distancing and PPO guidelines at the time.
A federal appeals court dismissed the case. Although the case was dismissed, it affirmed that workers can sue OSHA when they feel they are facing imminent danger at work and the agency is failing to aid them.
The decision does clarify some of the nuances of the law such as, workers can only file a case during OSHA's standard enforcement proceedings.
The plaintiff Justice at Work and co-counsel Public Justice, Justice at Work Pennsylvania, Towards Justice, and Nichols Kaster explained in their statement, "This decision also suggests that workers can sue OSHA whenever faced with a risk to their life or serious harm, in contrast to the district court’s opinion that held workers can only sue if an OSHA official’s recommendation to protect them has been overruled by a superior."
The plaintiff and co-counsel stated, “We are disappointed that the Court ultimately dismissed our case and that Maid-Rite meatpacking workers represented in this lawsuit will not get the relief they deserve. However, this decision affirms that workers have an important legal tool to protect themselves from workplace conditions that endanger their health and safety.”
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