The House passed legislation last week that would define the measures federal agencies must include in their return to workplace plans with consideration of the coronavirus pandemic.
The House approved the Chai Suthammanont Remembrance Act which was named after a federal employee who lost his life after contracting the coronavirus while working as part of the kitchen staff at a Quantico daycare center.
“Let me be clear: this was an avoidable death,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) who authored the bill. “Had there been protocols in place, a plan, guidance, Chai might still be alive today. Chai’s widow, Christina, has worked with my office to make sure this doesn’t happen to anybody else. I named this bill after Chai, because although the provisions in this bill can no longer help him, they can help the millions of federal and contract workers who will reenter federal workspaces across the country,” said Connolly.
The legislation would require each federal agency to publish online a plan to reopen a federal office building at least 30 days prior to the return of federal employees. The online plan would be required to include:
- Data on the personal protective equipment (PPE) the agency will provide to employees,
- Additional cleaning protocols to be implemented by the agency,
- Efforts to ensure social distancing,
- Efforts to protect employees who work outside of federal office buildings (such as auditors or inspectors),
- Safety and health requirements for visitors to federal facilities,
- Contingency options for those at high-risk of contracting the coronavirus, and
- Efforts to ensure continuity of agency operations, including contingency plans should there be a surge in coronavirus cases.
“I refuse to sit idly by while more and more of our federal workforce are forced back to office buildings under superficial plans with zero accountability,” Connolly added. “This legislation is designed to save lives and protect those who serve the American people. We, as Members of Congress, have an obligation to protect the federal workforce who keep our country running. Who keep our country safe.”
The legislation is endorsed by AFGE, NTEU, IFPTE, the National Federation of Federal Employees, and the Laborers’ International Union of North America.
Companion legislation was also introduced in the Senate by Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Gary Peters (D-MI) and Tom Carper (D-DE).