New guidance from advocates outlines recommendations for updating, improving effectiveness in critical mission areas, as well as protecting frontline workers and workers of color
RALEIGH (January 11, 2021) – Nearly a year into the COVID-19 pandemic – and with a new Labor Commissioner taking office in North Carolina – the NC Department of Labor (NCDOL) has an opportunity to modernize its systems and take proactive steps to effectively protect the state’s workers, responsible employers, and the economy during the current public health crisis and beyond.
A new guidance from the North Carolina Justice Center, NC State AFL-CIO, the National Employment Law Project, and 10 other worker advocacy groups across North Carolina outlines recommendations for updating and improving NCDOL’s effectiveness in its critical mission areas. These include making sure North Carolina workers have safe and healthy workplaces and that they receive pay they are legally owed; making certain that responsible businesses aren’t forced to compete with those breaking the law; ensuring workers who speak up for their rights do not experience retaliation; and guaranteeing safe housing for migrant workers.
“We are calling on the NCDOL and our new Labor Commissioner Josh Dobson to embrace policies that both protect public health during the pandemic and ensure that all North Carolina workers – particularly those on the frontlines and workers of color – can benefit from a fully inclusive recovery,” said Carol Brooke, Senior Staff Attorney with the NC Justice Center.
“More than anyone, frontline workers and workers of color have borne the brunt of COVID-19 health risks, pandemic-related unemployment, and generations of systemic discrimination and occupational segregation,” said Paul Sonn, State Policy Program Director with the National Employment Law Project. “By centering these and other historically marginalized workers in its pursuit of its mission in 2021 and beyond, NCDOL will ensure the betterment of the lives and livelihoods of all of the state’s workers.”
Recommendations for the NC Department of Labor include:
- Rebuilding NCDOL’s capacity with adequate staffing and funding; training and new complaint systems; increased bilingual capacity; and enhanced transparency.
- Protecting worker health and safety during the pandemic and beyond by acting quickly to adopt a COVID-19 emergency temporary standard (ETS), followed by a permanent infectious disease standard, and an ergonomics standard, as well as investigating existing COVID-19 complaints and setting priorities for investigations.
- Cracking down on wage theft and misclassification by updating guidance and regulations, and fighting misclassification, non-compete agreements, and no-poaching restrictions.
- Strengthening protections for North Carolina workers under the Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act (REDA) by launching an enforcement and public education initiative and supporting legislation to strengthen REDA.
- Protecting workers’ right to organize by updating NCDOL’s workplace rights notice as well as supporting legislation to authorize public-sector collective bargaining and the repeal of right-to-work.
- Protecting migrant workers by improving enforcement of migrant housing standards and supporting strengthened standards.
“In recent years – and especially during the COVID-19 crisis – the NC Department of Labor has simply not been achieving its mission,” said Aiden Graham, Campaign Manager with the NC State AFL-CIO. “As the pandemic has worsened throughout 2020, the NCDOL failed to take the type of strong actions that labor agencies in other states have taken to protect workers and the economy. This is a crucial opportunity to make moves to safeguard the lives of North Carolina workers and their families.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT Carol Brooke, Workers’ Rights Project, NC Justice Center, (919) 856-2144, email@example.com; Julia Hawes, Director of Communications, firstname.lastname@example.org