Uncertainty about Covid-19 and Workplace Liability

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Uncertainty about Covid-19 and Workplace Liability

The Covid-19 outbreak has been a shock to the business world and its millions of workers.  The U.S. government has so far passed several aid bills totaling trillions of dollars aimed at keeping individuals and businesses afloat during these tumultuous times.  Many legislators believe that more aid still needs to be provided to struggling businesses.  However, one sensitive topic that may need to be tackled before any new aid package is passed: business liability for workers who become ill with Covid-19.

During the length of the outbreak, numerous front-line workers deemed essential have been diagnosed with Covid-19, including healthcare workers, grocery workers, and food processing workers.  Right now, even without a law protecting businesses, filing a workers’ compensation claim for contracting Covid-19 would be difficult.  Workers filing claims would need to prove they contracted the illness at work.  Businesses that are following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines on physical distancing, disinfecting surfaces, and providing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) may be able to argue successfully that they are not responsible for the infection.

As some states begin to lift shutdowns and reopen businesses, sometimes before medical experts say it’s safe to do so, the likelihood of being found liable for workers contracting Covid-19 could increase.  Businesses are very aware of this, which is why they are lobbying that any future aid package must include protection against lawsuits from workers and customers who may contract the coronavirus on their premises.  Indeed, the leader of the U.S. Senate has suggested there is an extreme need to protect businesses from legal liability related to the pandemic.  Labor unions suggest this type of action would encourage companies to not provide the appropriate safeguards against the virus.  Business groups may realize how awkward a demand this is, as they are emphasizing that the limit on liability would be targeted solely to the Covid-19 pandemic.  With news reports of several meat processing plants becoming coronavirus hot spots, possible legislation limiting employer liability could have a significant negative impact on workers.

Any legislative action will likely be narrowly focused on Covid-19; all other work injuries will almost certainly still be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.  People who suffer injury at work should contact an experienced workers’ compensation law firm to help them through their claims.  The Law Offices of Scott Warmuth has been helping its clients since 1984.  If we don’t win your case, our services are free, so call us today at 888-517-9888 for a no-cost consultation.

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