Concerned about returning to work? Here are your options

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- As North Carolina reopens in phases and employees return to work with coronavirus concerns, attorneys continue to hear from many with safety concerns in the workplace.

"People are in a little bit of a dilemma," explained Carol Brooke, a senior staff attorney specializing in workers rights at the NC Justice Center.

"We are definitely hearing from people who have concerns about their own health and safety or they live with someone who has high risk and they don't want to be bringing it home to them," Brooke said.

Brooke says there are steps employees can take if they have safety concerns in the workplace.

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"One, is express their concerns to their employer and be as specific as possible what the issues are," Brooke explained. "The best way to do that is always with other employees so you have that group protection under the law," she added.

Brooke says employees should look at CDC guidance and see if employers are in compliance. If voicing concerns doesn't lead to improvements, she says filing a complaint is the next step.

"You can make an OSHA complaint that may result in changes in what's happening in the workplace," Brooke said.

"We have always had the right to work in a safe and healthy workplace that is fundamental under the OSHA law," she said. "So, I think the Department of Labor has OSHA for a reason and this is a time when they really need to step up and help people letting them know what employers need to be doing to keep employees safe and what workers can do if that's not the case."

If unsafe conditions persist, Brooke says unemployment may be an option.

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"If you think your employer is not complying with the CDC guidance or OSHA or Executive Orders by Governor Cooper, then you may have good cause to continue receiving unemployment or for the first time receive it," Brooke explained.

"The Division of Employment Security has put out a list of reasons why employees might not return to work or leave work and that includes if their work is not safe under those guidelines," she added. And, as schools remain closed, Brooke says there are also legal rights for employees with childcare issues.

"Workers who have a child whose school is closed or daycare is closed may also qualify for paid leave from their employer so they may want to expire that option as well."

For more information on workers rights in North Carolina click here.
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