We have been asked, by people on the front lines in hospitals and other public facilities, whether an employer may require an employee to work even if insufficient medical personal protective equipment is available. In Colorado and most other states, the answer to this question lies in the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (“OSHA”). Among other things, OSHA contains a “general duty” clause and an anti-retaliation provision, which, together, allow a worker to refuse dangerous work and have a claim against the employer if the worker experiences subsequent retaliation for that refusal. Your right to refuse to do a task is protected if all of the following conditions are met:

  • Where possible, you have asked the employer to eliminate the danger, and the employer failed to do so; and
  • You refused to work in “good faith.” This means that you must genuinely believe that an imminent danger exists; and
  • A reasonable person would agree that there is a real danger of death or serious injury; and
  • There isn’t enough time, due to the urgency of the hazard, to get it corrected through regular enforcement channels, such as requesting an OSHA inspection.

If you would like guidance navigating unsafe work conditions, please feel free to contact us at 303-442-5111. Stay safe and thank you