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Congress: Don’t Shield Businesses That Put Workers, Consumers at COVID-19 Risk

118 Groups Demand That Congress Reject Immunity From Liability for Unsafe Business Practices

WASHINGTON, D.C. – No business should be given immunity from potential liability for exposing workers or customers to COVID-19, Public Citizen and 117 other groups said in a letter today to congressional leadership.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has called for businesses to be immune from liability if their workers and customers get sick because a business failed to take reasonable steps to protect people. Such a proposal, if enacted, would undermine consumer and worker protections, reward negligent conduct and show unwarranted disrespect for state law, including centuries-old state-law remedies.

“[W]e strongly oppose any legislation that would establish nationwide immunity for businesses that operate in an unreasonably unsafe manner, causing returning workers and consumers to risk COVID-19 infection,” the groups wrote. “Removing legal accountability for businesses not only would jeopardize the health and safety of workers, it would also jeopardize everyone who enters those workplaces. This would be extremely damaging to the nation’s economic recovery.”

Some businesses already have put employees back in the workforce without ensuring their safety, and as a result, infections have spread, the groups noted. In this way, the businesses are slowing the pace of recovery. Opening more businesses would ensure an even slower recovery and even more deaths.

“[L]egal liability is one of the most powerful incentives we have to ensure that businesses operate safely. When workplaces are not properly protected, patients, customers, clients, and the community are all at risk,” the groups wrote.

“From protecting the food supply chain to preventing needless deaths in nursing homes, it is clear that companies responsible for the health and safety of others must continue having every incentive to protect them,” the groups said.

Read the letter here.