DOL Acts to Promote Workers' Rights
Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Labor, alongside the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the National Labor Relations Board, announced a joint initiative to raise awareness about retaliation issues when workers exercise their protected labor rights.
“Retaliation is a persistent and urgent problem in American workplaces,” said EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows.
“Charges alleging retaliation have increased as a percentage of the total number of charges filed with the EEOC every year for the last 20 years. Together, working with our interagency partners and with employers, we must tackle this urgent problem and help ensure that employers have effective strategies for taking immediate action to stop retaliation.”
According to a government press release, the civil law enforcement agencies will collaborate to protect workers on issues of unlawful retaliatory conduct, educate the public and engage with employers, business organizations, labor organizations and civil rights groups in the coming year.
“The enforcement of labor laws only works when workers who speak out for themselves and their fellow workers and not fear or suffer from retaliation,” said Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda. “In the U.S. Department of Labor’s fight against wage theft, misclassification, discrimination, unsafe or unhealthy workplaces and other unlawful employment practices, we will use all tools available to protect workers from retaliation. This collaboration among federal labor enforcement agencies will form a bulwark against unlawful retaliation.”
In addition, the initiative also plans to build on the work of the memoranda of understanding between the agencies and strengthen interagency relationships. In doing so, the agencies seek to ensure they cooperate effectively and efficiently to enforce related laws and protect workers’ rights.
“All too often, workers face adverse action for speaking out about their pay, health and safety issues, discrimination or other working conditions. Under the National Labor Relations Act, it is unlawful for employers to retaliate against workers for taking collective action to improve their working conditions,” added NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo. “These issues cut across multiple worker protection agencies, which is why it is so important to work collaboratively to effectively prevent and forcefully address retaliatory acts against workers.”
Next week, the initiative will launch with a virtual dialogue with the employer community focused on the importance of workers’ anti-retaliation protections for those exercising their rights and the agencies’ shared commitment to vigorous enforcement.
The virtual dialogue is slated to take place on Nov. 17.
ETS Vaccination Rule
The joint initiative seems to arrive at a time where it will soon be needed even more. At the beginning of the month, the DOL’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration published an emergency temporary standard requiring employers with 100 or more employees to implement a COVID-19 vaccination requirement for their employees by Jan. 4, 2022.
Employers are also required to provide their employees with a weekly testing alternative to those who refuse or are unable to receive a vaccine, in addition to wearing a face covering at work in lieu of vaccination.
The rule went into effect on Nov. 5.
Additional reports imply that companies reaching the threshold will be largely responsible for enforcing the new rule. While there are not enough state and federal OSHA inspectors to follow-up on the vaccinations nationwide, the Administration reports that it plans to respond to employee complaints and will add coronavirus-related inspections to their to-do lists when onsite.
Employers that violate the rule can face fines of up to $13,653 per violation for serious violations and 10 times that for willful or repeated violations.
At the beginning of the year, OSHA announced that it was starting to oversee retaliation complaints filed under two new whistleblower statutes: the Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act and the Anti-Money Laundering Act.
The decision arrived months after evaluations and meetings surrounding the agency’s whistleblower program.
Information on the new acts include:
OSHA has yet to issue final rules for these statutes; until it does, complaints will be processed using procedures under the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century.