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AT&T workers deemed essential worried about going door-to-door amid coronavirus pandemic

Most employers aren't legally required to do anything for essential workers, instead they're given a set of set of Cal/OSHA guidelines they are asked to follow.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — For people working at places considered "essential" to stay open, there are certain advisories in place by California's workers safety department to protect them in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

AT&T service technicians are among those deemed essential, still doing work in other people's homes, using masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and wipes. But a local union representing AT&T workers in Sacramento says there are not enough of those supplies for workers.

"They're having a hard time to obtain any of the supplies that are needed so they're frustrated," explained Edgar Macias, the secretary and treasurer for Communication Workers of America Local 942, which represents AT&T workers. "They're concerned and they're worried that they're going to bring this contagious disease home with them."

Jim Kimberly, a spokesperson for AT&T, said that a majority of the company's workers are able to work from home as state and local governments order residents to stay inside to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

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But for those who aren't working at home, they're trying to get them the supplies needed.

"We have teams who need to be in the field performing critical work to keep millions of people connected," Kimberly said. "We will continue to provide them with the tools they need to stay safe while on the job."

Employment attorney and law professor William Wright says most employers aren't legally required to do anything for essential workers, instead they're given a set of guidelines from California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA) which they are recommended to follow.

"They're supposed to have an injury and illness prevention program and determine if there's a risk of infection in the workplace, but God knows how many employers actually know that that's a requirement or even have that," Wright said.

Wright says healthcare workers, lab workers, correctional facilities, homeless shelters and drug treatment programs have their own set of standards where they are covered by the "Aerosol Transmissible Disease Standard," which means they are required to provide protective equipment for their employees.

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But it's a different story for all of the other essential workers that don't fall into those categories.

The standards say that employers are encouraged to allow you to work from home.

When that's not possible, they are supposed to encourage any sick employee to go home, they should be teaching cough and sneeze etiquette, basic hygiene, avoiding sick people and should provide cleaning in the workplace.

"All we have is the OSHA standards which are more advisory than anything else," Wright said. "It's up to the employer and we know that some employers are doing a way better job to protect their employees than other employers."

Follow the conversation on Facebook with Lena Howland.


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