COVID-19: If you think your working conditions put you at risk
Employees may be faced with new risks in the workplace as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Employees who refuses to perform work due to concerns over COVID-19 exposure may risk discipline for "insubordination". However, such discipline can potentially violate the law and/or a collective bargaining agreement ('CBA"). If you have concerns about the risk you face in the workplace, you should consult with your steward or a local officer for advice.
Employees covered by a CBA are more likely to be protected from discipline if:
--The employee can show that they had a genuine and reasonably based belief that performing those work duties would put them at immediate risk of contracting or being exposed to COVID-19.
--Where practical, concerns were timely presented to management
--Where practical, the employee conditions their work on reasonable remedial measures that would allow the employee to perform work with minimal risk; and
--An affected employee keeps a written record of the circumstances surrounding and refusal to perform work.
--In addition; the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has provided guidance to employers in light of the COVID-19 pandemic: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-business-response.html. Employees should review this resource and encourage employers to adhere to its recommendations, as this resource may provide additional "just cause" considerations.
--Blanket refusals to work, i.e. complete refusals irrespective of remedial measures offered by an employer, are far less likely to be protected.
--Employees at greater risk because of their own health condition may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation up to and potentally including leave from work.
--Generally, discipline can be avoided or invalidated if an employee or group of employees (whether represented by the union or not) (1) act in good faith in refusing to perform work due to abnormally dangerous conditions, (2) the belief was a contributing cause of the work stoppage, (3) the employee's belief was supported by ascertainable, objective evidence, and (4) the preceived danger posed am immediate threat of harm to employee health and safety.
--Employees may also have protections afforded under state law and/or employment law applicable to a particular sector