Employer Must Compensate UFCW-Represented Employees Forced to Quarantine for Workplace COVID-19 Exposure
Many workers have been whipsawed by a pandemic. Those fortunate enough to have continued employment may find themselves at increase exposure to the health emergency directly and indirectly. These essential workers include school bus drivers whose job requires that they interact with many individuals, including co-workers, students, and parents. And, when these same workers, laboring under increased hazards, are exposed to a deadly virus, some employers cruelly respond with an unpaid suspension. Thanks to Attorney Terence Coles, a neutral arbitrator agreed that the collective bargaining agreement negotiated by United Food & Commercial Workers Union, Local 1459 prohibits the M&J Bus, Inc. in Western Massachusetts from placing employees on unpaid status while forced to quarantine as a result of workplace exposure to COVID-19.
The Arbitrator eloquently stated that employees cannot be punished with unpaid suspension for simply doing their job:
"These employees were ready and willing to work. Only the exposure to Covid-19, which was a direct result of their work for the Company, prevented them from performing their jobs. I agree with the Union that the Company’s decision to place these employees on unpaid suspension was unreasonable in the circumstances. The employees should not be required to carry the financial burden of quarantine in addition to the anxiety and inconvenience of exposure to a deadly disease to which they were exposed by performing work at the behest of and for the benefit of the Company."
Thanks to UFCW, Local 1459 and Attorney Coles, the individual drivers wrongfully suspended during their quarantine will receive their lost wages.