September 30, 2020

Van Hollen, Warner Introduce Bill to Promote Federal Worker Safety and Increase Transparency Around Agency Reopening Plans

Bicameral legislation would inform federal workers of essential safety policies and procedures prior to their return to work

Today, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Mark R. Warner (D-VA) introduced the Chai Suthammanont Remembrance Actlegislation requiring federal agencies to establish and publish COVID-19 workplace protections. The bill, named after a Virginia federal worker who passed away from COVID-19 complications, would compel each federal agency to create and post concrete reopening plans online, at least 30 days prior to the return of federal employees. This legislation, which passed through the House of Representatives today, was introduced in the House by U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA). 

Joining Senator Van Hollen and Senator Warner in introducing this legislation are Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH). 

According to this legislation, any federal agency reopening plan must include information on: 

  • The personal protective equipment (PPE) provided to employees 
  • Additional cleaning protocols to be implemented by the agency
  • Efforts to ensure social distancing at worksites
  • Agency measures or efforts to protect employees who work outside of federal office buildings, such as auditors or inspectors
  • Safety and health requirements for members of the public visiting federal facilities
  • Contingency options for workers at high risk of contracting COVID-19
  • Efforts to ensure continuity of agency operations, including contingency plans should there be a surge in COVID-19 cases
In addition to requiring federal agencies to publish their reopening plans online, this legislation would require each agency’s Inspector General to submit a timely review on whether that agency has provided adequate PPE for employees and whether it has complied with this legislation by publishing COVID-19 safety policies and procedures. 

This bill has been endorsed by the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE), and the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA). 

Bill text is available here