Last November, just as Minnesota was suffering through a punishing wave of COVID-19, managers at a St. Paul U.S. Postal Service distribution center allowed employees to hold a going-away party in the building.
Alejandra Hernandez, a mail handler at that center, was shocked when she saw the gathering: Almost everything about it seemed to violate pandemic safety policies. More than 15 of her colleagues were together in a break room meant for six, chatting, eating and not wearing masks.
That day, she filed her second of three complaints to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. “I hoped that someone would come and make them take this seriously,” Hernandez recalled.
She wasn’t the only one complaining about problems at the facility — another employee had filed a complaint in July, alleging that workers weren’t being alerted of potential exposures and the building didn’t have proper ventilation. Others filed three more complaints in September alleging that the site’s sanitation practices, personal protective equipment and quarantine measures were insufficient.