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Business Immunity Would Jeopardize Economic Recovery


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. Please send tips, feedback and questions to David Rosen at drosen@citizen.org.

CORPORATE IMMUNITY WON’T LEAD TO A SAFER REOPENING: In the New York Law Journal, Professor Samuel Estreicher explained that, “allowing companies to avoid a claim of negligence altogether simply because they have complied with administrative guidance, which can change and is not even binding on the agency, will not make customers or employees safer.” Estreicher continued, “Companies may be too quick to require employees to return to work even where work from home is feasible, and they may not consider additional safety protocols such as staggering customers throughout a store or improving ventilation in a given workplace where it is reasonable to do so.”

BUSINESS IMMUNITY WOULD SLOW RECOVERY, TRANSFER RISKS TO WORKERS: “The expert advice about reopening is simple: The economy won’t really get going again unless Americans feel secure,” political science professor Jacob S. Hacker wrote in The Atlantic. “So long as people face enormous risks, they won’t be confident about investing in new skills or new businesses or big purchases or, indeed, even about showing up to work.” He warned: “If employers achieve broad immunity from claims and preserve the status quo for workers’ comp, they will have transported the nation a long way back toward the risks of early industrial America.”

NEARLY 16,000 CORONAVIRUS COMPLAINTS FROM WORKERS: The U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration lists almost 16,000 coronavirus-related complaints from workers. Economic recovery will require public confidence that businesses are operating as safely as possible. The threat of being held accountable in court is a powerful real-world incentive for companies to take reasonable steps to protect workers and consumers. Immunity would take away that incentive, make workplaces less safe and jeopardize the economic recovery.