Why Temporary Coronavirus Liability Relief is Needed for American Businesses

Businesses of all types and sizes, educational institutions and nonprofits organizations are working hard to protect employees, customers, students, and everyday Americans in an environment filled with incomplete and inconsistent information. The growing risk of opportunistic lawsuits against these organizations poses a significant barrier in our ability to reignite the American economy, get people back to work, protect those already back at work, and get students back to school. 

As Congress closes in on the next Coronavirus legislative relief package, one of the most important remaining debates is over lawsuit protections.  Organizations across the country have united to call for timely, temporary, and targeted liability protections for those that work to follow public health guidelines. They need assurances that if they do the right thing, they won’t face more financial hardships from unwarranted lawsuits. 

We must be focused on a bipartisan strategy to get the American economy back on track safely and sustainably, and unwarranted lawsuits against businesses will hinder economic recovery.

We need Congress to pass timely, temporary and targeted liability protections so people can back to work, back to school and on with their lives.

There is broad public support and a consensus is emerging on this issue.

    Coalitions write to congressional leadership:

    • The Chamber, along with over 480 associations sent a letter on July 30th urging Congress to support the timely, targeted, and temporary liability relief provisions contained in S. 4317, the “SAFE TO WORK Act” and include the provisions in a Phase IV COVID-19 relief package. 
    • Industry groups that represent restaurants, retail, travel, tourism, hotels and other businesses sent a letter on May 11th to congressional leadership on Monday urging liability protections in the next coronavirus relief bill. 
    • The Chamber joined a group of 51 state and local chambers and state business groups on May 20th urging Congress to pass timely, temporary and targeted liability relief legislation. The groups noted that "This is an unprecedented situation and despite employers’ best efforts to comply with public health guidance, many are concerned that they will be forced to defend themselves against a wave of lawsuits."
    • The Chamber joined a diverse coalition of over 200 trade associations and business groups sent a letter on May 27th to Congress urging them to quickly enact temporary and targeted liability relief legislation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The groups stated, in part "These crucial protections should safeguard businesses, non-profit organizations, and educational institutions, as well as healthcare providers and facilities, from unfair lawsuits so that they can continue to contribute to a safe and effective recovery from this pandemic."
    • The American Council on Education, on behalf of a group of over 70 higher education associations sent a letter on May 28th to Congressional leadership urging them to quickly enact temporary and targeted liability protections related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Thought leaders express their opinions: 

    Small business owners express concerns about possibility of lawsuits:

    • According to a June 3rd U.S. Chamber and MetLife Small Business Coronavirus Impact Poll, two-thirds (67%) of small businesses with 20-500 employees and a majority (51%) of mid-size small businesses with 5-19 employees are worried about the possibility of lawsuits related to the coronavirus. 
    • The Chamber's Institute for Legal Reform launched a new video series on June 11th highlighting first-hand accounts from real small business owners about their experience with reopening their business and what they are most concerned about. Hear from one of these small business owners below, and check out the new video series here

     

    To reignite the American economy and get unemployed Americans back to work:

    • Employers following guidance shouldn’t be sued out of business. We need assurances that if employers do the right thing and follow the advice of public health experts, they won’t face more financial hardships from unwarranted lawsuits. Our hospitals have to keep working. Our child care providers need to support working parents. Our small businesses need to return to revenue so they can return employees to the payroll.
    • Relief should be temporary and targeted. Gross negligence and bad actors should be held accountable. We are simply asking for temporary ‘safe harbor’ protections at the federal level to give employers some degree of assurance that if they follow public health guidelines, they won’t face further financial hardships through unwarranted lawsuits. The business community is not seeking blanket immunity.
    • We need bipartisan action and precedent. Democrat and Republican governors alike have extended coronavirus liability protections in their states, including Michigan, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. And from the Y2K Act, to post- 9/11 laws, to the Great Recession, Congress has consistently passed bipartisan liability protections to help get the nation back on its feet.