Press Release: Councilmember Elissa Silverman Introduces Emergency Bill
Councilmember Elissa Silverman Introduces Emergency Bill to Provide Important COVID-19 Protections for Businesses and Workers
WASHINGTON, DC, July 23, 2020 – Today, At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman (I) introduced emergency legislation that would put in place basic health and safety standards to protect District workers during the coronavirus pandemic. The Protecting Businesses and Workers from COVID-19 Emergency Amendment Act would require employers to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to employees, establish social distancing policies that apply to workers and customers alike, and prohibit retaliation against workers who speak out about unsafe conditions. The bill is expected to receive a vote next Tuesday, July 28.
“In order to safely and successfully reopen our businesses and jumpstart our economy, we need to make sure our workplaces are safe,” said Silverman. “Customers are not going to spend their money at businesses they feel are taking a risk with their health and the health of workers. It is vital to our economy and our city that we get this right.”
The Protecting Businesses and Workers from COVID-19 Emergency Amendment Act works in conjunction with the recent Mayor’s Order requiring employers provide masks to all employees. In addition, the bill would create a process to alert employers to any positive cases at their business, and ensure workers are provided with all necessary health and safety-related information. It also establishes enforcement mechanisms for non-compliant businesses.
Highlights from the bill include:
PPE and Workplace Safety
- Requires employees to inform their employer of a positive test for COVID-19.
- Requires that employers ensure that all persons in the workplace wear face coverings, except customers who are eating, drinking, or engaging in socially-distanced exercising.
Requires employers to provide PPE to employees while at work, including:
- Masks for all employees who need them.
- Hand sanitizer and access to hand washing stations.
- Face shield or plexiglass barrier for stationary employees who cannot socially distance.
- Establishes a PPE grant program for small businesses to buy or be reimbursed for PPE purchases, up to $500 per business.
Prohibition on Retaliation
- Prohibits retaliation against employees because of a positive COVID-19 test.
- Prohibits retaliation against employees who refuse to serve or work with an individual who refuses to social distance or wear PPE.
- Prohibits retaliation against an employee exercising their rights under the bill.
- Permits the Mayor to conduct investigations, enforce the bill administratively, and to assess discretionary penalties.
- Permits the Attorney General to conduct investigations and bring a civil action in District courts.
- Establishes discretionary financial penalties.