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In Alabama, it's the federal government's job to oversee safety in the work place. The WAAY31 I-TEAM learned 56 companies are accused of not doing enough.
Nine of the complaints are about businesses from North Alabama. The companies range from a chicken plant to a restaurant to a credit union, and even a post office. For all of these complaints, plus others regularly filed, there are only 21 OSHA compliance officers throughout the entire state to investigate.
The complaints center around a lack of protective gear, sanitizing, social distancing and employees testing positive for coronavirus with nothing being done by the employer. Only one of these complaints is considered "formal" the others are non-formal, which means they don't meet OSHA's guidelines to be formal. WAAY 31 asked OSHA if it's actively investigating any of the complaints but it wouldn't say.
Formal complaints are filed by current employees with the businesses and must define a clear OSHA violation that could lead to an employee being harmed. According to OSHA's coronavirus guidelines formal complaints are taken more seriously if they come directly from multiple employees.
The guidelines also state complaints at places like hospitals or meat packing facilities are considered high risk and go to the top of the pile, but that doesn't mean it's sending investigators.
OSHA is directing it's officers to, "Maximize the use of electronic means of communication". So onsite visits to expose dangers to employees likely won't happen. In a sample letter that's supposed to go to businesses with complaints says, "OSHA does not intend to conduct an on-site inspection in response to the subject complaint at this time."
The investigating officer is directed to, "exercise enforcement discretion when considering issuing citations".
It's unclear what fines a company could face for failing to protect you from the coronavirus, but lawmakers in Montgomery did talk about adding protection to make it harder for employees or customers to sue a business if it doesn't do a good enough job.
Alabama is one of about 25 states that doesn't have a state OSHA plan, that means Alabama workers fall under the federal guidelines. The only people protected in Alabama by OSHA are people in the private sector, which means police officers, firefighters, sanitation workers, and anyone working for a municipality can't file an OSHA complaint, because Alabama doesn't have a state plan.
You can file complaints anonymously. If a company retaliates against an employee for filing a complaint that's illegal.