Worker's rights: How is work in GA and SC during COVID-19?

(Source: WRDW)
(Source: WRDW)(WRDW)
Published: Mar. 23, 2020 at 5:16 PM EDT
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Monday, March 23, 2020

News 12 at 6 o'clock/NBC at 7

AUGUSTA, GA. (WRDW/WAGT) – A worker's tale of two states: while some workers can stay home, others have no choice but to clock in and continue each day.

On one side of the river, only essential businesses are allowed to operate. On the other side, it depends on where you work.

Sondra Murdaugh works as an in-home nurse in Orangeburg County. She has no choice but to work, and she’s afraid she’ll lose her job if she doesn’t.

“I am a little bit scared. I wonder how long I should be doing this in-home nursing care,” she said.”

Not only that, other members of Murdaugh’s family work in essential industries and she worries about them. Her pregnant daughter-in-law works in the prison system, and her cousin works in manufacturing.

“Dear Lord, they stand close -- probably no more than a foot apart,” she said.

Gov. Henry McMaster ordered all non-essential state employees to work from home last week. All essential industries include healthcare, jails, courts, emergency services, food, transportation, communications, utilities, and certain manufacturing facilities must stay open in South Carolina.

The state of Georgia does not currently have a non-essential business closure order in place. However, some local governments are choosing to execute it in local areas. Augusta implemented an order while Columbia County did not.

“My biggest fear is that they will get it and bring it back home to the family," Murdaugh said. “I mean, we have a large family and we got so many small kids and elderly people are here.”

The OSHA has set COVID-19 guidelines for employers but without any legal ramifications for not following the guidelines.

Columbia County commissioners say they will enforce by revoking business licenses of companies not following CDC guidelines. But Murdaugh feels that the businesses themselves are moving fast enough to protect their employees.

“Some of them are some of them aren’t,” she said. “They are trying to figure out how many feet apart people can work at some of these plants that are still running -- don’t know how that’s going to work out.”

In this unprecedented time – there are more questions than answers.

Essential and non-essential employees alike do not have many legal rights if they still must go to work under state order. Georgia and South Carolina are both ‘right to work’ states, which means an employer can let a worker go for any reason including if the employee does not come to work despite them not feeling safe.

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