Frequently Asked Questions on Workplace Conditions

We've compiled the most frequently asked questions related to personal protective equipment, CDC guidelines, quarantine, high-risk groups, childcare, exposure at work and more.

Your employer is responsible for providing all the equipment you need to do your job safely and the training to use it properly. If an employer is telling you that you don’t need specific PPE to care for a COVID patient and you feel that this is putting you or your patient at risk, contact a union delegate or organizer.

There is currently a widespread shortage of PPE and hospitals have been forced to ration PPE for healthcare workers. We are working with partners in local and state government to secure more equipment for healthcare workers on the front line.

The CDC advises the use of an N95 mask, a gown, a face shield or goggles and gloves when treating a patient who has tested positive for COVID-19. Surgical masks can also be worn by healthcare workers or patients who are showing symptoms to help reduce the spread of the virus, but they do not offer the same amount of protection as N95 masks.

Non-hospital worksites are struggling to procure enough PPE due to the national shortage and being considered by government officials as not as high on the priority list as hospitals. This doesn’t mean that if you work in a clinic or a behavioral health chapter you don’t need and deserve the proper PPE. If you are not able to work remotely and are asked to come in to work, you are within you rights to ask your employer what PPE is available and what efforts they are making to secure more.

CDC guidelines and information around PPE can be found here.

This depends on where you work and the Memorandum of Understanding the union has been able to bargain with your employer. Our union believes that any worker who is sick with COVID-19 or needs to be in quarantine should be placed on paid admin leave while they recover, instead of needing to exhaust their own accruals. Reach out to a delegate or your organizer to find out if we have reached an MOU with your employer and what it covers in regards to the COVID-19 response.

The state and local governments have worked to waive requirements like the one-week waiting period on unemployment and established an eviction moratorium. They have also been working with local manufactures to produce PPE and medical supplies. Additionally, Washington Governor Jay Inslee has issued a stay-at-home order for all non-essential personnel in order to bend the curve down.

The federal government has passed three COVID-specific packages. Provisions in these bills included increased and expanded unemployment insurance, emergency sick leave for many workers but not healthcare workers and funding for PPE. Included in these bills is also direct payment to individuals and families to help support the nation’s economy during the crisis, as many businesses have needed to shut down.

If you have a social security number, you will most likely be receiving a direct cash payment from the federal government if you have filed taxes in 2018 or 2019. Other benefits will vary widely and we have prepared a special FAQ page to walk you through a variety of scenarios you may encounter.

You can ask for an accommodation if you believe you are at high risk or believe that you are not reasonably prepared to care for a COVID-19 patient. If your employer refuses to give you an accommodation, you should reach out to delegate or an organizer to discuss what your options are. It is important that you remain safe for your patients, as a spike in healthcare workers becoming sick would make the pandemic exponentially worse.

People over the age of 65 and with underlying health conditions will put them at a higher risk of contracting the disease. Some underlying conditions include chronic conditions such as lung or heart disease and diabetes.

If you have children and their school or regular child care plan has been cancelled, there are programs established at the local level to help put you at the front of the line for emergency childcare so you can continue working on the front lines.

Review the benefits scenario FAQ page for helpful links.

Testing is in short supply but more tests are on the way. Currently, hospital employers have a limited supply but are prioritizing healthcare workers who have been potentially exposed or are showing symptoms. If you feel sick or believe you need to be tested, contact your direct supervisor or employee health.