Warner Introduces Bill to Promote Federal Worker Safety & Increase Transparency Around Agency Reopening Plans
Sep 30 2020
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) introduced the Chai Suthammanont Remembrance Act, legislation 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 Sen. Warner in introducing this legislation are Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).
“Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, federal employees have been hard at work to preserve essential government functions and ensure that the American people can continue to count on their government for vital guidance and assistance when they need it the most. However, this work should never come at the expense of workers’ lives, as was the case for Chai Suthammanont, a public servant from Virginia who passed from COVID-19 complications,” said Sen. Warner. “As public servants transition from remote to in-person work, the least we can do is avoid another tragedy and make sure that folks can return to a safe work environment. That’s why I introduced this legislation requiring federal agencies to publish their policies and procedures online, where federal workers and their families can access them before returning to work.”
“I want to thank Senator Warner for his work to protect the health and safety of our federal workforce. Chai was committed to his community, and for that, he gave up his life. Our bill will ensure federal employees have the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding their agencies’ reopening plans. We owe that to Chai and his family,” Rep. Connolly said.
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.
Sen. Warner has continued to be a longtime champion for federal workers during the COVID-19 crisis. In July, he joined a group of colleagues in urging Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to include requirements to ensure maximum telework for federal employees and contractors in the next COVID-19 relief package. He also previously urged OMB and OPM to reverse course on plans to bring federal employees back to their worksites prematurely, and joined a number of his colleagues in requesting information regarding the safety of federal workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, in March, he called on OMB and OPM to post department and agency contingency plans and urged the President to immediately issue an executive order directing agencies to utilize telework capabilities to the maximum possible extent.