facebook linkedin twitter

Congress Tries to Protect Employers From Lawsuits Tied to Coronavirus

May 13, 2020 by Tom Ramstack
Congress Tries to Protect Employers From Lawsuits Tied to Coronavirus

WASHINGTON – Industry and legal experts told the U.S. Senate Tuesday that the coronavirus pandemic is creating liabilities that are not adequately addressed by existing laws and regulations.

As a result, business owners are running up against hundreds of lawsuits that are slowing the nation’s economic recovery.

Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, called the nearly 1,000 court claims filed so far this year “a tidal wave of lawsuits” during the hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Senate is considering proposals for national standards to protect businesses from lawsuits by employees and customers during the pandemic.


Many business owners want to reopen but risk getting sued if their employees or customers are exposed to increased risk of infection and illness. Others say some of the lawsuits are attempts to get settlement money despite no proof of damages.

Meanwhile, unemployment has risen to the highest levels since the Great Depression of the 1930s and the nation’s economy is nosediving from widespread economic loss.

“We shouldn’t be punished for fulfilling our duty to stay open,” said Kevin Smartt, chief executive officer of Texas-based Kwik Chek Convenience Stores.

He agreed the health of employees and customers is important but added, “None of us could protect against every risk of infection.”

One proposal in Congress would exempt businesses from nearly all liability related to coronavirus.

A second more popular proposal would protect them from getting sued only if they meet standards of new workplace health and safety guidelines.


Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee agreed some kind of legal protection is needed to fully reopen the U.S. economy.

They recommended that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration jointly establish national coronavirus guidelines.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, said the guidelines need to be “specific COVID-related standards.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who chairs the Judiciary Committee, said the alternative to liability protection is likely to be further business failures.

“What I want to do is make sure we don’t have to go into bankruptcy any more than we have to,” Graham said.

However, a labor leader cautioned that extending the protection too far could create an incentive for employers to inadequately protect workers.

“We believe that would exacerbate some of the outlaw employers we have in this country,” said Marc Perrone, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

He added, “We must not provide a blanket of immunity that guarantees some of these workers would be taken advantage of.”


David Vladeck, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C., said Congress needed to avoid enacting an immunity from liability for employers that conflicts with state laws on the same issue.

“Legislation that simply displaces state liability laws is not only unprecedented it is probably unconstitutional,” Vladeck said.

A+
a-

In The News

Health

Voting

Congress

May 19, 2022
by Dan McCue
New Dems Push Commerce to Speed Solar Tariff Investigation

WASHINGTON — Members of the New Democrat Coalition on Thursday urged the Commerce Department to step up the pace of... Read More

WASHINGTON — Members of the New Democrat Coalition on Thursday urged the Commerce Department to step up the pace of its two-month-old investigation of solar technology imports. The development of hundreds of large-scale solar farms are on hold across the United States as the industry and... Read More

May 19, 2022
by Tom Ramstack
Congressmen Criticize State Laws Censoring Education on Controversial Issues

WASHINGTON — Teachers and students warned a congressional panel Thursday that recent state laws clamping down on politically volatile instruction... Read More

WASHINGTON — Teachers and students warned a congressional panel Thursday that recent state laws clamping down on politically volatile instruction in schools are likely to backfire by breeding intolerance. Seventeen states passed laws in the past two years intended to protect children from offensive sexual or... Read More

May 19, 2022
by Dan McCue
New York’s State of Mind: BAM! BANG! KRUNCH! KAPOW!

NEW YORK — It wasn’t supposed to be this way. In reliably blue New York State, where more than 53%... Read More

NEW YORK — It wasn’t supposed to be this way. In reliably blue New York State, where more than 53% of registered voters identify as Democrats, a newly drawn district map was supposed to serve as a bulwark against Republicans taking control of Congress in January.... Read More

May 18, 2022
by Tom Ramstack
A Potential Federal Law on Abortion Divides Witnesses Before Congress

WASHINGTON — Abortion supporters and detractors made impassioned pleas before a congressional committee Wednesday while invoking constitutional rights or Biblical... Read More

WASHINGTON — Abortion supporters and detractors made impassioned pleas before a congressional committee Wednesday while invoking constitutional rights or Biblical teachings. The House Judiciary Committee is considering one of several proposals in Congress on whether to enact a federal law to guarantee women’s rights to abortion.... Read More

May 18, 2022
by Dan McCue
US Army Leading By Example On Climate Change Adaptation

WASHINGTON — Though its primary mission remains warfighting, the U.S. Army is playing a leading role in an entirely different... Read More

WASHINGTON — Though its primary mission remains warfighting, the U.S. Army is playing a leading role in an entirely different battle — the nation’s response to the challenges of climate change. The scope of this mission is laid out in the Army’s Climate Change Strategy, which... Read More

May 16, 2022
by Dan McCue
New Democrat Coalition Celebrates 25th Year

WASHINGTON — The New Democrat Coalition, the largest Democratic caucus in the House of Representatives, turns 25 this week; an... Read More

WASHINGTON — The New Democrat Coalition, the largest Democratic caucus in the House of Representatives, turns 25 this week; an anniversary that coincides with but by no means caps, a very busy and effective year for the group. At the coalition’s core is a dedication to... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top