School buses are essential (under normal circumstances, when students are not at home during a pandemic) for many parents and for students who don’t otherwise have a way to school, after school activities or sports games. For many, they bring up fond memories of riding to school with friends and neighbors, but for others, buses have been the source of harm or even deadly outcomes. One reason is that most school buses don’t contain the types of automatic fire suppressant systems and protections we’ve come to expect, making a school bus one of the worst places to be during a fire.
History teaches that as in previous national crises, the funds appropriated through the CARES Act will be beset by fraud of every kind imaginable. America’s workers, and particularly the essential healthcare workers on the front lines of the pandemic, are uniquely situated to witness, detect, prevent and report COVID-19-related fraud on the government by taking advantage of the rights and protections afforded whistleblowers by the False Claims Act (FCA).
Since the beginning of this year, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Office of the Whistleblower (OWB) has issued approximately $64 million in whistleblower awards to 12 whistleblowers who reported information to the SEC that either caused it to open an investigation or substantially assisted in an ongoing investigation.
Over the course of last week, we explored how past work-related tragedies shaped and were often a catalyst for safety policies, many of which continue to protect workers to this day. We also examined the challenges and limitations that affect today’s workers – especially now as the world continues to find its way through this unprecedented pandemic. Now that Workers’ Memorial Week 2020 has come to a close, we’re reminded just how uncertain the future remains for workers.
In the workplace, employees’ knowledge of their rights not only empowers them, but helps to promote transparency, safety regulations and their civil liberties. In honor of Workers’ Memorial Week it is important to apply the lessons we have learned in the past and exercise workers’ rights, especially now as medical personnel, food plant workers and others are facing increased risks from COVID-19 and, in some situations, a lack of adequate personal safety equipment and appropriate working conditions.