My question involves labor and employment law for the state of: Pennsylvania
The PA governor declared that all non-essential/non-life sustaining businesses need to shut down due to COVID. I work at a healthcare facility, so my job is still open. My position is a computer/phone based non-patient care role that could be performed remotely, but my employer is not allowing us to telework. Their rationale is that it's not fair to the nurses for some staff to be able to work from home, so everyone in all departments is still required to physically come into work. However as we are all well aware, the more people concentrated in a building, the greater the risk of transmitting/contracting COVID. I raised safety concerns about the telework ban on multiple occasions, but upper management hasn't taken action to allow us to work from home. Even though my job doesn't involve direct interaction with patients, I have frequent environmental exposure to them through common areas. Our hallways are narrow, and there isn't enough space to stand the CDC recommended 6 feet apart in many parts of the building. If someone in the hallway starts coughing or sneezing, there's no space to pull off to the side and avoid getting sprayed. My employee work station is a cubicle with a short wall, so if the people next to me get sick, it is highly likely I would as well. The staff bathrooms are often used by patients. Given that bathrooms are a poorly ventilated space, this raises concerns that patients could easily pass COVID along to staff, or vice versa. Likewise, there are large meetings that exceed the CDC recommended limit of ten people. Staff also uses a patient common area for meetings, and the regularly scheduled meeting takes place immediately after a daily patient activity ends without time to sanitize. Needless to say, under the current conditions I don't feel safe working.
From what I can see online, OSHA has has provided recommendations for addressing COVID, but hasn't issued firm requirements. If the 6 feet of social distancing and 10 person meeting limit are recommendations rather than requirements, is my right to refuse work still covered under the General Duty clause? My employer says they'll let anyone who feels unsafe stay home, but I just want to know what protections are available in case they renege.
I am now at a crossroads where I have the choice between unpaid leave versus risking my health and the health of my family. If I am protected under the General Duty clause, can I claim unemployment even if my job is being held for me due to unsafe working conditions? I will gladly resume working, if/when my employer reconsiders the telecommuting.
In the event that this is not a valid reason for me to claim unemployment, I may have no choice but to go into work. From what I understand, healthcare workers are able to file for workmen's comp if they get coronavirus from work. Does this only apply for healthcare workers who have physical contact with patients (nurses, physicians, techs, etc)? Or does it also include non-medical healthcare employees who could acquire coronavirus from patients via common areas? On the same note, does getting coronavirus from a coworker allow you to file for workmen's comp, or only if it is a patient? In the case of coronavirus, working could potentially be more expensive than staying at home if I contract the virus and get slammed with hospital bills (or if I transmit the virus to family, and I need to help them with their medical expenses).