Are OSHA and Workers Compensation The Appropriate COVID Battlegrounds?
Employers are seeing all types of claims and lawsuits being brought on behalf of employees regarding safe working conditions. I like the way Amazon.com is defending such a suit in NY – – claiming that actions brought under NY statutes and public nuisance claims should all be investigated by OSHA or within NY’s Workers Compensation system.
In Palmer, et. al. v. Amazon.com, Amazon has filed a motion to dismiss stating that the changing COVID prevention recommendations of federal and state agencies are changing too much and too fast, but that OSHA’s long-standing safety regulations more than adequately cover any workplace safety lapses and should be investigated and resolved by OSHA, which has “special expertise” in keeping workplaces safe.
Amazon also argued that the employees’ injury/illness claims brought under the theory of public nuisance should be dismissed as all such claims are within the sole province of the WC system. The test in determining whether an injury arises in the course of employment is whether the employee was involved in some activity and scope benefitting the employer and was exposed to the virus. If so, then the claim is one of WC.