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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: March 25, 2020 02:37 PM
From: Senator Christine M. Tartaglione
To: All Senate members
Subject: Covid-19 Food Worker Safety Act
In the near future, I will be introducing legislation that would designate workers at food processing/protein facilities across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as “essential employees” and/or “front line employees” for all matters/circumstances, including but not limited to childcare, safety measures and paid leave to be made available to these workers.

These workers are vital to the food supply chain that nourish and feed our communities. It is imperative that Employers should take the following necessary, preventative actions to protect these workers:

Social Distancing: Employers should make available more space(s) for employees to take their breaks and meal periods. This includes opening up any conference or training rooms as well as temporary accommodations, such as a heated tent. Break times should be adjusted to reduce the number of employees on break at any given time. Table configurations should be changed so that the employees are always facing forward and not across from each other.

Start times should be staggered to mitigate exposures of large groups of employees. Any time/attendance tracking devices (i.e. biometric punching in/out) should not be utilized to prevent worker exposure. For any meetings or trainings, Employers should conduct in smaller groups with distancing in the rooms. For those with access, the training can be provided online.

Employers should limit the number of visitors to their facilities to mitigate the risk of exposures. This should include limiting access to only established third party providers/contractors (i.e. Security/Clean-Up/Union Representatives) until further notice. For those that continue to have access, self-screening guidelines should be implemented at the entrance to all facilities. This includes asking about past travel as well as current health status.

Temporary employees should not be utilized interchangeably between various worksites; temporary employees need to be properly screened and used for a defined timeframe (a two-week minimum) at a particular facility.

Employers should increase and deepen the level of cleaning in all facilities. This should include an increase in the number of times high-use areas and surfaces (i.e. handrails, doorknobs, bathroom doors, etc.) are disinfected frequently. Employers should make available sanitizers and other disinfectant wipes in both common areas and work areas. Break rooms, locker rooms and common areas should be immediately cleaned after utilization by employees (and on a continual basis). Employers should limit the number of employees at a given time in a locker room. Employers should give access to and allow employees regular access and time to wash hands and sanitize.

Paid Benefit Policies: If an employee is directed to [or has to] quarantine, the Employer should provide financial compensation (at the employee’s regular rate of pay) for the duration of the infection or quarantine. A quarantine may, among other things, be due to exposure to someone in the household. Where applicable, no Employer should disrupt or have an employee’s benefits terminated because of any quarantine or medical leave. In the case of any short term disability, Employers should waive any waiting period for any COVID-19 related matter/claim.

Attendance Policies: Employers should suspend their attendance policies surrounding any quarantine (whether medically directed or voluntary) or COVID-19 related circumstance. For circumstances that involve the care of a family member or for childcare related issues, the Employers should not penalize any employee and allow either (1) use of any personal paid time off (“PTO”) or (2) an unpaid leave of absence.

Protocols if an Employee is Diagnosed with COVID-19: If the Employer has a confirmed case at their facility, the Employer should immediately clean the production line/department the employee was on and send those employees that worked on the same line home immediately (with their regular pay for the remainder of their shift). Further, the Employer should map the path the employee took in the previous day(s) and cleaning those areas immediately. Those employees that were identified as being in contact with the infected employee should also be quarantined and paid up to fourteen (14) days at their regular rate of pay.

Employers should ensure they are posting and providing communications (whether in writing or verbal) in additional languages, where applicable, to ensure all workers are understanding of policies and protocols in their native or primary language.

Please join me is sponoring this legislation to protect our workers and food chain during this challenging time.

Introduced as SB1101