Lawsuits of Last Resort: Employees Fight for Safe Workplaces during COVID-19

2 Pages Posted: 5 Aug 2020 Last revised: 19 Aug 2020

See all articles by Mark A. Rothstein

Mark A. Rothstein

University of Louisville - Institute for Bioethics, Health Policy, and Law; University of Louisville - Louis D. Brandeis School of Law

Julia Irzyk

Independent

Date Written: July 29, 2020

Abstract

A worker whose employer is failing to provide adequate protections against SARS-CoV-2 generally has little legal recourse. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which is charged with ensuring safe and healthful workplaces, has refused to enact an emergency temporary standard for COVID-19. Furthermore, OSHA has issued only two minor citations against employers for violating existing regulations, despite thousands of illnesses and deaths among essential workers in high-risk positions. A possible “last resort” legal strategy is to sue under public nuisance law, but these actions are usually reserved for governmental entities and often precluded by the existence of a statute that addresses the general issue.

Keywords: CDC, COVID-19, Occupational health, OSHA, Public nuisance, SARS-CoV-2

JEL Classification: K31, K32

Suggested Citation

Rothstein, Mark A. and Irzyk, Julia, Lawsuits of Last Resort: Employees Fight for Safe Workplaces during COVID-19 (July 29, 2020). University of Louisville School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper Series No. 2020-7, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3664968 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3664968

Mark A. Rothstein (Contact Author)

University of Louisville - Institute for Bioethics, Health Policy, and Law ( email )

Louisville, KY 40202
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.louisville.edu/bioethics

University of Louisville - Louis D. Brandeis School of Law ( email )

Wilson W. Wyatt Hall
Louisville, KY 40292
United States

Julia Irzyk

Independent

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