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UNC Employees Sue For Workplace Safety With Campus Clusters Of Coronavirus On The Rise

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As college students return to campus for the fall semester, COVID cases in dorms are on the rise, and faculty and employees on UNC campuses are expressing fear for their safety. 

The bottom line is we have a right to workplace safety.

That’s Wendi Brenner, a professor of creative writing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She’s one of several plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the UNC System that's seeking safer working conditions during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The plaintiffs, who range from tenured faculty to maintenance workers, say that current measures in place to protect against the coronavirus do not meet the University's legal obligation to provide a workplace “free from hazards.”

Wendi Brenner:

People have different opinions and understandings about the risk, but I haven't heard a single person say that going back to school is safe.

Within a week of the start of classes, UNC-Chapel Hill reported 4 COVID-19 clusters--a cluster being five or more cases in a single dorm. 

Professor Brenner says the lawsuit is about coming to terms with just how impossible it is to contain the spread. 

No matter how much we do, we're not really addressing this sort of larger reality, which is that currently in North Carolina, the situation with COVID is just exponentially worse.

If the plaintiffs in this case are granted class action status, they will represent all UNC System employees. That’s over 21,000 full- and part-time employees at 16 campuses.