May 13, 2020

Warren, DeLauro Introduce Legislation to Protect Workers' Rights Amid COVID-19 Crisis

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Washington, DC - Today, United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Chair of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, are proposing legislation to make sure workers get fair access to legal remedy despite the coronavirus pandemic. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Ranking Member of Senate HELP Committee, and Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.), a member of Senate HELP, are co-sponsors. 

The Emergency Limitation Periods Extensions for Workers Act would extend the statute of limitations period for labor and employment laws by 90 days after the termination of the public health emergency, plus the duration of any overlap with the COVID-19 public health emergency period. 

"Because of COVID-19, workers already facing terrible health risks are also confronting increased barriers to legal representation and worried the clock will run out on seeking relief," said Senator Warren. "Our bill will make sure workers' rights aren't thrown off to the side because of a public health emergency by extending the period of time workers have to file claims."

"No worker should ever lose their access to justice because of the COVID-19 pandemic," said Congresswoman DeLauro. "If a worker experiences a labor or employment violation that they wish to file with the appropriate federal agency, they deserve to have the proper amount of time to make their case. Extending the limitation period to account for the ongoing public health crisis is the right thing to do. I am proud to team up with Senator Warren on this important bill to protect working people and their rights, and we will push for its inclusion in the next coronavirus relief package."

"The virus is hurting workers and their families in so many ways already--the least Congress can do is give them the opportunity to stand up for their rights and pursue justice in light of the public health crisis we're facing," said Senator Murray. "This is an important step to make sure that violations of workers' rights can't get swept under the rug in the coming weeks and months, and I'm proud to support it."

"As Minnesota workers grapple with the coronavirus pandemic and economic uncertainty, they shouldn't have to worry about fast-approaching legal deadlines to protect the rights to safe job sites, fair pay, and discrimination-free workplaces," said Senator Smith. "It's hard enough for workers to get a fair shot in these cases even in normal times--and the pandemic has made it even harder. Our bill would extend the legal deadlines for workers to file claims against employers who have broken federal labor and employment laws until the end of our national emergency."

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, federal courts across the country are closed or operating in a limited capacity, and workers face increased barriers to accessing legal representation. Despite this, the clock is still running on limitations periods for federal labor and employment cases, potentially preventing workers from bringing cases or receiving the full recovery they should be entitled to. This bill would extend the limitations period for filing a claim, charge, filing, or other request for a federal agency proceeding or complaint for a civil action under a labor or employment law for an additional 90 days after the termination of the public health emergency, plus the duration of any overlap with a COVID-19 public health emergency period. 

The legislation is endorsed by the National Employment Law Project, Economic Policy Institute, National Women's Law Center, National Employment Lawyers Association, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

"The U.S. legal system already presents barriers for workers to be able to access, navigate, and seek justice absent a crisis like the one we are currently experiencing.  We commend Senator Warren and Congresswoman DeLauro for working to ensure that workers don't face any additional barriers in seeking legal recourse regarding their rights in the workplace and that they have fair and adequate time to file their claims once the dangers of COVID-19 begin to abate." -- Rebecca Dixon, Executive Director of NELP

"We applaud Sen. Warren and Rep. DeLauro for introducing this urgently-needed bill. Wage theft, retaliation for speaking out about workplace safety, discrimination and harassment, and other forms of illegal mistreatment have continued unabated through the COVID-19 pandemic. Every working person deserves access to justice, and the effects of the pandemic-- closed businesses, children to care for at home, illness, courts that are closed or operating on reduced hours-- should not be a free pass for employers who violate the rights of the working people of our nation. We urge Congress to pass this important legislation without delay." -- Laura M. Flegel, Legislative & Public Policy Director at the National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA)

"This bill is critical for preserving access to justice during this national crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic is placing many people at greater risk of workplace exploitation and discrimination, including exposure to dangerous conditions and increased harassment of Asian-Americans. At the same time, working people are facing unprecedented barriers when trying to enforce their rights. Extending filing deadlines for charges and complaints ensures working people do not lose their rights because of this crisis." -- Emily Martin, Vice President for Education & Workplace Justice, National Women's Law Center

"We applaud Senator Warren and Representative DeLauro for introducing the Emergency Limitation Periods Extensions for Workers Act. Millions of people in America are experiencing increased economic vulnerability as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to devastate communities across the country. During this time, it is even more important that we protect the rights of working people and ensure that individuals who experience workplace harassment and discrimination-and other violations of their rights-do not lose the ability to seek redress because of this public health emergency. By taking the commonsense step of extending deadlines for filing claims, we can better protect all workers. We urge Congress to pass this legislation quickly." -- Gaylynn Burroughs, Senior Policy Counsel, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Last month, Senator Warren unveiled a proposal for an Essential Workers Bill of Rights to protect frontline workers during the coronavirus pandemic. The Essential Workers Bill of Rights includes Representative DeLauro and Senator Patty Murray's Providing Americans Insured Days of Leave Act. Senator Warren and Representative DeLauro have urged Congressional leadership to include the Bill of Rights in the next relief package.