Reps. Garret Graves (R-LA) and Henry Cuellar (D-TX) recently introduced COVID liability legislation in the House, H.R. 7528, the Get America Back to Work Act. This measure will function as a marker for negotiation purposes when the Senate releases its bill. Vice President Pence’s Chief of Staff recently reiterated that in order for President Trump to sign another stimulus measure, lawmakers must approve liability protections for businesses whose employees and customers may become infected with the virus as commerce resumes. Below is a brief summary of the relevant provisions of the House bill as introduced:
- Provides liability protections from claims regarding the spread or transmission of COVID-19 for businesses, universities, non-profits, and religious organizations acting in good faith during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
- Protects those who made good faith efforts to comply with federal, state and local guidance or appropriate industry standards and guidance.
- Does not provide liability protection in cases where there is willful or criminal misconduct, gross negligence, reckless misconduct, or a conscious flagrant indifference to the safety of an individual. In these cases, damages cannot be sought unless there is serious bodily injury.
- Provides preemption from state laws unless state laws provide greater liability protection. It also preserves federal preemption of the regulation of certain professions or businesses.
- Covers: January 1, 2020, to 18 months after the end of the emergency period; would apply to claims made before enactment.
- Occupational Safety or Health Hazard Exemption -- The Secretary cannot issue a workplace citation or impose any penalties on an employer related to COVID-19 exposure if the Secretary determines that the employer acted in good faith.
NATSO members are encouraged to contact their Representatives and ask them to co-sponsor this bipartisan bill. NATSO members have acted in good faith to implement appropriate measures to keep their employees and customers safe and healthy.
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