Workers presently have no right to bring a lawsuit against employers under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) or equivalent state laws when employers fail to provide safe and healthy working conditions. This gap in the law has been especially troubling during the COVID-19 pandemic, as workers across the United States have faced a massive workplace health crisis without any meaningful support from OSHA or most states or territories.
Even with an incoming OSHA that is more supportive of workers’ rights and expected to better enforce standards, providing workers a “private right of action” will bolster the agency’s activities. Workers in states and territories that operate their own occupational safety and health programs will also benefit from having authority to seek recourse in court, especially if their state program is unwilling or unable to do its job.
In this webinar, attendees heard from attorneys who support legislative measures to empower workers by providing them a “private right of action” to enforce the law.
- Sulma Guzmán is an attorney at Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc., where she advocates for workers’ rights at the federal and state level.
- Kate Suisman is an attorney and the Campaigns Coordinator for the Northwest Worker Justice Project. She handles employment and civil rights cases for the organization and coordinates their worker safety coalition, Safe Jobs Oregon, an affiliate of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health.
- Tom McGarity is a professor of law at University of Texas in Austin and a CPR Board Member.
- Sid Shapiro is a professor of law at the Wake Forest University School of Law and a CPR Board Member.
Former CPR Senior Policy Analyst Katie Tracy moderated the discussion.
View the webinar slide presentation.
Watch the webinar recording below, or view on CPR's YouTube channel.