CORPORATE ACCOUNTABILITY, NOT IMMUNITY
Welcome to the latest edition of “Corporate Accountability, Not Immunity,” a daily tipsheet highlighting key news and important facts on why Congress should not give corporations legal immunity from coronavirus-related harms to workers, consumers, patients and the public. Also refer to our tipsheet on misleading claims from industry groups and conservative lawmakers. Please send tips, feedback and questions to David Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
208 ORGANIZATIONS OPPOSE CORPORATE IMMUNITY PROPOSAL: On Tuesday, the National Employment Law Project sent a letter to the congressional leadership signed by 208 organizations – from 44 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico – opposing the corporate immunity bill introduced last week by U.S. Senate Republicans. “If the Senate Republican proposal is enacted, there will be a race to the bottom in workplace health and safety, as even law-abiding employers will be disincentivized from implementing proper health and safety protections – endangering working people, their families, and their communities,” the letter reads. “The Senate Republican corporate immunity bill would also let employers off the hook for ‘pandemic related’ violations of minimum wage and overtime laws, discrimination laws, paid leave laws, and more. But a global pandemic is no excuse for employers to flout long-standing workplace protections.”
THE SENATE BILL, EXPLAINED: While coverage of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) bill has focused on the preemption of state tort law, Vox explains that the bill includes a wide “array of barriers on plaintiffs alleging that they became infected with COVID-19 due to the negligent (or worse) actions of their employer or a business that they patronized.” The barriers would “require plaintiffs to give a detailed account of where they’ve been and who they’ve been in contact with prior to becoming infected; they limit the amount of money damages available to most plaintiffs; and they actively discourage lawyers from taking clients with COVID-19-related concerns.” In short, “the bill drastically alters the legal and evidentiary standards governing suits against a business accused of spreading the coronavirus.” The takeaway: “Senate Republicans want to give sweeping lawsuit immunity to businesses accused of helping spread the coronavirus.”
SENATE BILL WOULD GIVE A FREE PASS TO NEGLECT IN NURSING HOMES: To date, COVID-19 has reportedly caused more than 40,000 deaths in nursing homes. Not surprisingly, then, “experts on elder law and advocates for nursing home residents are alarmed that the Republicans’ proposed immunity shield could destroy what little accountability there is for nursing homes at a time when they’ve become deadly hotspots of COVID-19,” Mother Jones reports. The pandemic has “created an unprecedented lack of oversight for nursing homes.” Under the Senate bill, corporate owners of nursing homes “would not only be protected from claims of mismanaging their response to COVID-19, they would be free to pursue the kinds of cost-cutting that could endanger their vulnerable residents.”