INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Department of Labor has received more than 1,000 complaints in the past few weeks from workers and citizens related to COVID-19.
The labor department typically receives 1,200 complaints in a year’s time.
The state agency has received 1,077 complaints in the past few weeks related to COVID-19 and workplace safety including things like businesses not providing hand sanitizer, to an employer not informing employees that a co-worker tested positive.
Of the 1,077 complaints, 794 were questions about whether a business was an essential or nonessential business.
The agency does not have enforcement powers when it comes to the governor’s order regarding who is deemed essential and nonessential, however if they get a complaint, they are sending letters to companies reminding them who is essential and nonessential.
“The Department of Labor is keeping a list of who they’re sending letters to,” said Stephanie McFarland, spokeswoman for the Indiana Department of Labor.
McFarland said they are investigating complaints about workplace safety and the process typically begins by DOL sending the company a letter seeking more information, proof, documentation, etc.
The company has seven days to respond.
“If they see something that gives them concern or a violation of a regulation, or if the company doesn’t respond, then it is escalated to a formal complaint,” McFarland said.
The Department of Labor could then perform a safety compliance inspection. Depending on what inspectors find, the company could face fines or a corrective action plan.
The Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration (IOSHA) has created a specific COVID-19 complaint form for workers to voice their concerns.
Penalties would vary depending on which regulations are violated and how flagrant each violation is.
Gov. Eric Holcomb explained Monday what the state is doing about businesses who are not taking precautions to protect workers from COVID-19.
“We are paying attention to every single complaint that comes into the state for review,” Holcomb said. “As we monitor potential infractions, we have noticed that over the last week they’re starting to decline at an exceptional rate. We’re pleased about that. Maybe news traveled slow in some places.”
Holcomb said the state is working with local health departments, prosecutors and law enforcement to ensure everyone is following the rules.