The Trump administration is almost certainly going to get off the hook despite making the White House a COVID hotspot and an unsafe workplace

U.S. President Donald Trump takes off his mask when he returns to the White House from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, DC on October 5, 2020.
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Under the leadership of the chief - President Trump - the basic security protocols of COVID-19 have not only been ignored but also ridiculed by White House staff.
Now the White House is a COVID hotspot and an unsafe place to work.
There has been speculation that the White House could face criminal or civil liability, but both are unlikely.
The government adheres to a lower standard of safety in the workplace than private companies. And the Trump administration has gutted the agency that holds employers accountable.
Trump is back in the Oval Office despite still being infected with COVID, which puts everyone in this building at risk.
This is a split opinion. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
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The White House is an unsafe work environment.
Over the past few months, under the leadership of the chief - President Trump - the basic COVID-19 protocols have not only been ignored but also ridiculed by White House staff.
Masks were seldom worn and often mocked or discouraged. There was also no consistent social distancing among executives. Overcrowded, confined meetings continued.
Once COVID ran through the building, accurate and up-to-date information from the administration was nowhere to be found, but press secretary Kayleigh McEnany managed to provide some information to the assembled press corps, including a brief no-mask last Thursday.
McEnany tested positive for the virus three days later.
McEnany tweeted that she "definitely had no knowledge" that Hope Hicks tested positive for COVID earlier that day, but the conflicting and confusing schedules the White House had given through the debacle made some reporters question the statement .
And the reporters McEnany spoke to are rightly angry. But they have realized that Trump's White House is a place that will not be taken seriously even seven months after the pandemic.
"No masks on airplanes. Inconsistent testing. Every life relies on a rapid test system that doesn't really work. And they mocked and attacked us for pointing it out repeatedly," a White House reporter told CNN.
"Because of this ruthlessness, we are more concerned about our health than ever," said another reporter.
White House staff also talk about how fearful they are of working in an embarrassingly reckless environment.
These reporters and staff would have a number of options if forced to work in a corporate setting with such random security protocols. But because it's the White House, there is little they can do to stand up for themselves and hold the Trump administration accountable. And because Trump is President, the watchdogs responsible for protecting work safety are nowhere to be found.
A dangerous job, limited recourse
Some hot legal questions surfaced on the internet speculating whether the White House or certain senior executives could be found criminally negligent for putting other White House staff and reporters in dangerous workplaces.
Deborah Berkowitz, a former OSHA senior policy advisor during the Obama administration, doesn't think this scenario is likely to play out.
"Unfortunately, workers here have few rights to hold employers accountable in this administration," said Berkowitz. "Like other employers who are blatantly violating CDC guidelines, the White House really has nothing to fear."
Berkowitz - currently director of the Occupational Safety and Health Program at the National Labor Law Project - added, "White House employees could file a complaint with OSHA to request an on-site inspection. However, during the pandemic, OSHA refused to make specific requirements on employers must adhere to to protect workers. "
During the Trump administration, Berkowitz said "the federal agency responsible for protecting workers in this administration is missing in action" and conducted very few field inspections.
Alan Lescht, a DC-based attorney specializing in labor and labor law, said reporters could potentially claim the White House was negligent, although the bar for proving negligence is quite high. Regarding filing an unsafe work environment claim, Lescht said that since reporters are "guests" of the White House, their only option is to file an employee compensation claim against the news agencies they have assigned to an unsafe environment. In this case, the workplace is the White House.
Scott Oswald, an attorney representing employees and whistleblowers at Washington, DC-based law firm The Employment Law Group, said criminal negligence is as good as off the table as it does not apply to federal jobs.
"The government has considered it appropriate to keep private employers on a different level than they do themselves. At least from a criminal perspective," said Oswald.
Because the White House is a federal building, the District of Columbia Labor Policies and Labor Protection do not apply. And, in an ironic twist, the current administration may have made it harder for its employees to seek recourse as it took back worker protections and gutted OSHA for nearly four years.
There is a small window for a civilian course of action, however, but only for some.
White House staff, but not reporters, could hold the White House responsible in a civil court "if it could be demonstrated that the president deliberately placed reporters and others in an unsafe environment that he knew was what he was act represents an injury. " Security practices, "said Oswald.
As for the White House reporters, there is not much they can do. BuzzFeed News drew its White House reporter Kadia Goba on Wednesday, citing concerns about her safety in a COVID hot zone. BuzzFeed News editor-in-chief Mark Schoofs tweeted, "We are not going to unnecessarily expose our reporters to the risk of a deadly disease - and neither is anyone else."
The White House and Capitol Hill have disregarded the DC government's COVID guidelines and have since been the cause of an increase in COVID infections in the DC area.
Trump is back in the Oval Office despite still being infected with COVID, which puts everyone in this building at risk.
However, don't expect the federal government to adhere to basic safety standards in the workplace. And good luck to everyone whose description says "must work in the White House".
Continue reading:
Trump's constant lying has finally caught up with him
Being a parent of school age children during COVID means being helpless in the face of failed "leaders".
Trumpworld rejoiced at the cruelty. Now that Trump has COVID, it takes empathy.
Andrew Cuomo shamelessly tries to remember his fiasco in the coronavirus nursing home
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