This post was written by Candace Chewning, Philadelphia Department of Labor.
On June 26, 2020, Mayor Kenney signed the Employee Protections in Connection with COVID-19 Emergency Health Order law into effect. This law protects employees who “blow the whistle” on employer health violations during COVID-19.
The law prohibits Philadelphia employers from taking any adverse employment action on employees who believe there is a violation of a COVID-19 public health order at work. Adverse actions include terminations, disciplines, and loss of benefits or responsibilities.
Refusal to work
If an employee notifies their employer of an unsafe working condition that they believe is a violation of a COVID-19 public health order, the employee is protected from retaliation if they report a violation or refuse to come to work.
Employees can not refuse to work when:
- The business provides a reasonable alternative work assignment that does not expose the employee to the unsafe condition.
- Upon inspection by the Philadelphia or Pennsylvania Department of Health, the business proves it is compliant with all public health orders addressing safe workplace practices.
COVID-19 public health orders
COVID-19 public health orders can come from the City or the State. Currently, COVID-19 public health orders for workplace safety requirements for employers include, but are not limited to:
- Maintain social distancing of at least six feet.
- Provide masks for employees and require mask wearing for employees and guests in public spaces (except when eating or drinking).
- Allow employees time for regular handwashing with soap, hand sanitizer, or disinfectant wipes.
- Clean high touch surfaces regularly.
- Close all areas visited by COVID-positive or probable COVID-positive persons for 24 hours after exposure or possible exposure.
- Install shields or barriers to separate cashiers and customers.
How to get more information
Reach out to the Office of Worker Protections in the Philadelphia Department of Labor to file a COVID-19 workplace retaliation complaint, ask questions, or request compliance support. You can reach the Office by emailing Covid19WorkplaceProtections@phila.gov or by calling 215-686-0802.
“I’ve been a hotel worker for 45 years. The coronavirus has changed almost everything about how my hotel operates. I’m happy to still have a job, but it is scary going to work these days. These protections are important because my coworkers and I are the ones risking our health to make the hotel run, and we’re the first to know when there are problems. If we don’t feel safe speaking up, it increases the risk that workers or the public could be exposed to the virus.”
Corean Holloway, Recording Secretary of UNITE HERE Local 274
Frequently asked questions
Q: What do I do if I experience a workplace safety violation?
A: Call 311 to report the workplace safety violation.
Q: What do I do if I experience retaliation for speaking up about a violation of a COVID-19 health order?
A: Call 215-686-0802 or email COVID19WorkplaceProtections@phila.gov to report the retaliation.
Q: What do I do if I experience retaliation for refusing to work due to a violation of a COVID-19 public health order?
Additional COVID-19 information
The documents below provide additional workplace information related to COVID-19.
- The City’s Reopening with Care guidance provides information and precautions that will help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
- The Order of the Secretary of Health in effect from April 6, 2020 provides for building safety measures.
- The Order of the Secretary of Health in effect from April 19, 2020 provides for business safety measures (to keep employees and customers safe).Guidance issued by the Pennsylvania Department of State to the Real Estate Industry, reissued April 28, 2020.
- Other future applicable Department of Health (DOH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance.
- “Know your rights” in the workplace flyer by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and the Mayor’s Office of Labor.