Giving Compass' Take:

• Lindsay F. Wiley and Samuel R. Bagenstos expose discriminatory impacts of public health policy failures, which place disproportionate burdens on marginalized communities.

• How have rigid public health policy failures perpetuated especially devastating tragedies during coronavirus? What are you doing to help finally draw awareness towards and bring an end to this unjust burden?

• Read on about the importance of recognizing structural racism to correct public health policy.

The coronavirus pandemic—and governmental responses to it—have highlighted the critical but often neglected connections between public health, employment, and antidiscrimination law. In March, many states instituted stringent infection controls for nursing and long-term care facilities, including instructions that any staff member with “signs or symptoms of a respiratory infection should not report for work.” But facilities are understaffed, and employees—who are disproportionately women of color—are paid low wages with limited sick leave, driving some to report for duty at multiple jobs, even if they become infected. A public health response to the coronavirus pandemic is serving important interests for the whole of society. Yet the sacrifices it demands and the deaths it fails to prevent have exacerbated disparities along class, race, gender, and disability lines. The injustice of disproportionate pandemic burdens has been brought to the fore by protesters calling out COVID-19 as one of many ways in which anti-black racism kills.

Many of us know these to be policy failures. But it’s important to understand that they are also failures of law. The bodies of law that should protect marginalized workers from being singled out to bear especial burdens—notably those involving employment law and antidiscrimination law—do not effectively serve to lessen those disparities. Instead, they encourage states and employers to offload the burdens of necessary public health interventions onto the overlapping groups of disempowered workers, including racial and ethnic minorities, women, and disabled people. Our response to the pandemic should instead prompt a shift to a more solidaristic approach to the laws that protect marginalized groups, to match the focus on social good that, in theory, animates public health.

Read the full article about discriminatory public health policy failures by Lindsay F. Wiley and Samuel R. Bagenstos at Democracy Journal.