Generally speaking, it would be very difficult to prove that one individual has infected another with COVID-19 given the widespread rate of infection. So, in a workplace context, who is responsible for COVID-19 at work? The employer needs to be the one responsible for providing a safe workplace to all of its employees. Workers must also play their role by reporting any unsafe conditions, following procedures, and reporting any instances of others failing to follow policies and/or procedures. 

Employer Duties:

Employers at this point should have procedures for social distancing, mask-wearing, and sanitation in the workplace at the very least. Most workplaces should also have reorganized work tasks in a way to minimize direct contact between workers and/or between workers and clients. In the event this is not possible, then masks, plexiglass, and so forth should be in place. All the above comes with the duty to inform employees of the proper procedures in order for infection prevention to be effective. Overall, employers must provide a safe workplace and educate workers on proper policies/procedures.

Scenarios where an unvaccinated employee may face discipline:

Unvaccinated employees may face discipline if they fail to follow the safety procedures at the workplace as it pertains to COVID, as would any vaccinated worker. The misconduct should always be for the failure to follow safety procedures and policies rather than the impact that may result. For instance, if a worker fails to advise its workplace that they have been in contact with an infected person, and come to the workplace as usual, then this should be grounds for severe discipline in itself and the worker may be responsible for COVID-19 at work.

Final thoughts:

Overall, it is practically very difficult to hold an individual responsible for COVID-19 at work, especially for infecting others within the workplace. Workplace policies for discipline should focus on misconduct for breaching procedures and safety protocol, which is an approach that provides for the most consistency and clarity.

To better understand COVID-19 related issues during these unprecedented times, we encourage employees and employers to seek legal advice. We at Whitten & Lublin are happy to provide insight and advice into your specific circumstances. If you are looking for employment lawyers and would like more information about what Whitten & Lublin can do for you, please contact us online or by phone at (416) 640-2667 today.

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