Unions File Briefs and Evidence in Support of California’s Crucial COVID-19 Workplace Protections

On January 19, 2021, Altshuler Berzon LLP filed amicus briefs and evidence to support emergency regulations adopted by Cal-OSHA in November 2020 to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the State, in two cases brought to overturn those regulations. Altshuler Berzon LLP represents, and filed the amicus briefs on behalf of, a multi-union coalition comprising the Service Employees International Union (“SEIU”), SEIU California State Council, United Farm Workers of America (“UFW”), International Brotherhood of Teamsters (“IBT”), United Food and Commercial Workers Union Western States Council, California Teachers Association, California School Employees Association, California Federation of Teachers, Transport Workers Union, California Federation of Interpreters, SMART-Transportation Division California State Legislative Board, and California Labor Federation.

After the emergency regulations were issued, two sets of industry groups filed suit and sought preliminary injunctions to block implementation of these critically important workplace protections, specifically challenging key provisions that require employers to provide paid leave to workers who need to quarantine because they have contracted or been exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace. The multi-union amicus briefs highlight the role that workplaces have played in the COVID-19 outbreak, particularly those workplaces in which employers have not followed public health guidance, and the importance of the emergency regulations in protecting essential workers. The unions also filed appendices of evidence, including numerous OSHA complaints filed by fast food workers as part of the Fight for $15 campaign, declarations from a public nuisance case filed by Altshuler Berzon LLP on behalf of fast food workers and their relatives at an Oakland McDonald’s restaurant in which unsafe workplace practices led to a COVID-19 outbreak, declarations from a similar case involving UFW and Foster Farms, and declarations from workers and union leaders at SEIU-United Service Workers West, UFW, and the IBT emphasizing the real and severe health threat caused by COVID-19 transmission in the workplace.

On February 25, 2021, the San Francisco Superior Court denied the industry groups’ request for a preliminary injunction, holding that the groups were unlikely to succeed on the merits of their challenges and that, even if they had been likely to succeed, the economic costs of compliance would be outweighed by the worker safety and public health considerations necessitating the standards.

Here is the brief in the National Retail Federation case, and here is the brief in the Western Growers Association case. The San Francisco Superior Court’s decision denying the preliminary injunction motions can be found here.