By IAN MUNRO
Daily News-Record 8/21/20
Dozens of city and county residents learned about the commonwealth’s new temporary work standards during a webinar call with Courtney Malveaux, a Richmond lawyer with experience in labor and business law.
Malveaux previously worked as Virginia’s Labor Commissioner and now co- leads the workplace safety and health group for law firm Jackson Lewis P.C.
The event was organized and hosted by the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of Commerce in response to questions from local employers on what is and is not required by the new regulations compared to previous Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, according to Frank Tamberrino, president and CEO of the chamber.
Virginia became the first state in the nation to pass enforceable, temporary
worker protections in July after Gov. Ralph Northam issued Executive Order 63 on May 29. The order included a provision requiring the commissioner of the department, C. Ray Davenport, to come up with emergency protocols to ensure employers are taking adequate precautions to keep their workers safe.
“Courtney Malveaux was truly the voice of business and reason during this process,” Tamberrino said.
The new standard requirements in place for all employers include a COVID-19 hazard assessment for all job tasks on a range from very high to low, set out policies for reporting COVID-19 symptoms, the prohibition of known or suspected workers to come to a worksite, “ flexible” sick leave policies and mandatory hand- washing stations and hand sanitizer.
In addition to other employer requirements, discrimination for raising, or reporting concerns, using voluntary personal protective equipment or refusing work is barred under the new rules.
Workers in industries such as food processing have expressed concerns about conditions in Harrisonburg and Rockingham plants during the COVID- 19 pandemic to the Daily News-Record on multiple occasions but declined to go on the record, citing reservations about voicing concerns publicly and affecting their employment.
As well, building owners must notify employer tenants about COVID-19 cases and a system to receive positive tests for employees, including temporary workers, contract employees and subcontractors, according to Malveaux.
Also in the standards are hazard assessments for all job tasks and employers must notify the Virginia Department of Health of positive tests.
If there are three positive tests in a two-week period, employers must inform the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry of what will be called a “hot spot.”
But there are also more specific requirements for employers with different “hazard” levels, according to Malveaux.
He said that Virginia having its own state Occupational Safety and Health plan, which makes its staff more “approachable” and “community-minded” than a federal labor body.
“Washington may be about 90 or 100 miles away for many of us, it might as well be 90 million miles away,” he said. “We have people we can interact with and they get our concerns better.”