For Immediate Release:
November 20, 2020
Contacts: Christopher Hundley, firstname.lastname@example.org
Northampton County Continues to Risk its Workforce’s Health and Safety
As COVID-19 cases surge in Northampton County, County officials continue to risk the health and safety of their workforce. The Director of Northampton County Children and Youth Protective Services refused to send a visibly sick employee home after being exposed to COVID-19. The employee worked in the office – in close contact with staff for three days – before their positive COVID-19 test result.
The Director’s ill-advised decision – a reflection of the County’s failure to-date to institute clear and comprehensive COVID-19 workplace safety protocols – has endangered its workforce and their families. And it echoes the recklessness of the County Council, which, in the spring, ended its teleworking policy and forced county workers back into the office while the county was still in the red phase.
“Northampton County does not care about the health and safety of its employees,” said Deb Langman, SEIU Local 668 Business Agent. “County workers continue to protect Northampton’s children, seniors, and differently-abled, but the county has failed to protect them.”
“It shouldn’t take a likely outbreak to get a policy changed,” Langman further noted. “Especially, when we’ve been repeatedly warned them of the risk.” However, only yesterday, November 19, did county officials inform SEIU Local 668 they would begin to send symptomatic workers home.
Unfortunately, symptomatic county employees who have already exhausted their available sick days will be forced into unpaid leave status. Given the continuous contact county employees have with the community, a single quarantine-related exposure (even if the employee’s test comes back negative) can exhaust an employee’s leave balance. Northampton County’s refusal to implement a COVID-19-related leave policy forces county workers to choose between trying to conceal their illness to support their families, or risking being unable to put food on the table while they seek treatment.
SEIU Local 668 demands Northampton County put their employees’ safety first by creating and implementing strong COVID-19 protocols that follow CDC recommendations. At a minimum, these guidelines should include:
- Allowing employees to telework;
- Closing and deep cleaning the office after each COVID-19 positive case;
- Implementation and enforcement of the mitigation measures the Pennsylvania Secretary of Health announced on November 20th;
- Use of skeleton crews to perform only the most critical in-office functions, and
- Providing additional COVID-19-related leave for staff to quarantine after a COVID-19 exposure.
About SEIU Local 668
SEIU Local 668 represents nearly 20,000 health and human services workers, including those who work as employment and youth counselors, social workers, corrections and probation officers, ChildLine and 911 operators, drug and alcohol counselors, and court employees, among others. Approximately half of our members are employed by the Commonwealth, and another 9,000 work for the municipal, county, and private employers across the state. Our members are a diverse group of individuals, of varying ethnicities, political affiliations, and beliefs, but they are united by their dedication to serving our constituents – the people of Pennsylvania.