Essential Workers and COVID-19 – What You Need to Know

With the current coronavirus pandemic, Governor Lee has called for all non-essential businesses to close in order to slow the spread of COVID-19 throughout our community and the state of Tennessee. This also includes a “stay at home” order for citizens, with the exception of carrying out essential activities. What does this mean for “essential workers,” and what does it mean for their on-the-job safety?

Essential workers and businesses in TN

The governor’s executive order places restrictions on all non-essential businesses through at least April 14. The list of essential businesses includes:

Essential Workers Nashville Tennessee
  • Critical infrastructure workers
  • Healthcare and public health operations
  • Human services operations
  • Essential infrastructure operations
  • Essential government functions
  • Food and medicine stores
  • Food and beverage production and agriculture
  • Charitable and social services
  • Religious and ceremonial functions
  • Media
  • Gas stations and transportation businesses
  • Financial and insurance institutions
  • Hardware and supply stores
  • Critical trades
  • Mail, post, delivery, pickup services
  • Educational institutions
  • Laundry services
  • Restaurants for off-premises consumption
  • Supplies for business or work-from-home
  • Transportation
  • Home-based care and services
  • Residential facilities and shelters
  • Manufacturing, distribution, and supply chain
  • Hotels and motels
  • Funeral services
  • Any business related to Essential Activities

As you can see, there are a lot of essential businesses, and a lot of essential workers. What does this mean for you?

Your rights as an essential worker

Counties, cities, and towns across the state are trying to determine what counts as essential and what doesn’t. With the intense economic pressure to remain operational, it’s important employers take the correct measures to protect their workers’ paychecks and their health.

The President recently signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, offering 10 days of paid emergency leave to employees diagnosed with COVID-19, to care for a family member diagnosed, or who have been ordered to self-quarantine by a medical professional. This leave applies only to companies with 500 or fewer employees – but you are assured this right under law if you qualify.

Why do I still have to go to work?

While there are increasingly wide closures of certain industries, local and federal government officials must strike a balance between curbing the spread of COVID-19 and allowing essential businesses and workers to continue providing resources to the community.

Why can’t I work from home?

For many Tennessee essential businesses, this may come down to a matter of best business practices or simple practicality. If a company is an essential business, they are likely not legally required to allow you to work at home. And, for jobs like factory or service jobs, it’s just not possible. However, you do have the right to a safe workplace.

Will my employer keep me safe?

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has provided guidelines for employers to prevent worker exposure to coronavirus. These guidelines include “physical barriers to control the spread of the virus; social distancing; and appropriate personal protective equipment, hygiene, and cleaning supplies.”

You can find more detailed OSHA and COVID-19 information here.

Here at the Rocky McElhaney Law Firm, we will continue to work for the citizens of Tennessee during these uncertain times. We serve clients in Nashville, Hendersonville, or Knoxville. Call us today at 615-425-2500 or fill out our contact form.  We fight for you.

For more information on monitoring the spread of the coronavirus on a global basis, you can visit the CDC and the World Health Organization.