6:55 PM PDT 8/10/2020 by Katie Kilkenny
The Writers Guild of America West is making its position clear on COVID-19 liability waivers.
In an email sent to members on Monday, the guild told members unequivocally not to sign these waivers, which exempt employers from liability for an employee contracting COVID-19 or incurring medical bills as a result of work they perform while employed by them. "Your employer is required by law to provide a safe and healthy workplace both in the room and on set," the guild wrote. "The WGAW has collected studio guidelines so we can better advise you. Please do not sign a waiver of liability that seeks to shift responsibility onto your shoulders."
If members are asked to sign any of these waivers, the guild advised them to contact representative Jennifer Barbee directly or email the union's legal department.
The Editors Guild, Art Directors Guild and Cinematographers Guild has previously warned members away from signing COVID-19 liability waivers, while the labor group the Nonfiction Professionals "Union" also recently held a legal seminar for members regarding these waivers. In its health and safety guidelines, the Editors Guild wrote that "Employers are prohibited from asking or otherwise requiring any crew to sign liability waivers."
In the same communication on Monday, the Writers Guild of America West additionally emphasized that employers are required to offer a safe and healthy workplace under federal and state occupational safety and health law. Writers should still be working remotely given that "California and many other state and local guidelines currently require employees who can, to work remotely." If members are asked to visit a set, they should ask the production for their safety protocols first.
Finally, the guild exhorted members to contact them with concerns: "The political and entertainment industry responses to the virus are continually evolving, so we appreciate information members are providing about their real-life specific experiences," the union added. "These reports allow the Guild to continue to adjust our own guidance and advocacy for members’ well-being on the job. Please let us know what your employer is doing and if you feel safe."