Over the last several weeks, The State Journal has received numerous phone calls and emails from Frankfort residents upset about how their employers are handling the COVID-19 crisis.
Those calls have come from health care professionals, factory workers, state government employees and more.
None was willing to speak to The State Journal on the record out of fear they would be fired.
Now, employees can report noncompliance to the state using a new hotline: 1-833-597-2337.
During a press conference this week, Gov. Andy Beshear said the hotline received around 2,000 calls on Monday alone.
It’s staffed from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. by Labor Cabinet employees and callers can leave a message.
Most of the workers who have contacted The State Journal reported a lack of social distancing within the workplace or that they are not being allowed to work from home.
Since Kentucky saw its first COVID-19 case, Beshear has been urging people to stay home as much as possible, work from home if they can, and to stay at least 6 feet away from other people at all times.
Beshear has even issued executive orders to enforce social distancing. He’s closed dining rooms at restaurants, concert venues and churches, and on Wednesday he signed an executive order closing all non-life-sustaining businesses by 8 p.m. Thursday.
Those businesses can either close altogether, or switch to working remotely and using telecommunication.
The executive order classifies the following as life-sustaining businesses: grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, food and beverage manufacturing, agriculture, medical supply stores, hardware stores, organizations that supply charitable and social services, media, financial services, construction, laundry services, postal service, home-based care services, transportation services, businesses that sell, manufacture or supply life sustaining businesses with support and materials, professional services, funeral homes, hotels and restaurants for consumption off-premises.
However, just because a business can stay open under the executive order doesn’t mean it's exempt from practicing social distancing.
Beshear’s executive order mandates that “all businesses permitted to operate, including life sustaining businesses and businesses conducting minimum basic operations must follow, to the fullest extent practicable, social distancing and hygiene guidance from the CDC and the Kentucky Department of Public Health.”
Violating the order could lead to penalties or businesses being forced to close.
The order defines social distancing and hygiene guidance as ensuring physical separation of employees and customers by at least 6 feet when possible, making employees practice appropriate hygiene measures such as washing their hands and using hand sanitizer, regularly washing and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces, permitting employees to work from home when feasible and identifying sick employees and asking them to leave the property.
Employers are also strongly encouraged to offer employees paid sick leave, although it is not mandated under the current executive order.