Proposal Would Penalize Workers, Consumers for Pursuing Legal Claims Against Companies

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 drosen@citizen.org

SCHUMER, MCEACHIN SPEAK OUT AGAINST CORPORATE IMMUNITY IN WEDNESDAY TELEPRESSER: U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and U.S. Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Va.) joined a telepresser on Wednesday with leaders from labor, climate, progressive and Indigenous organizations to urge fellow lawmakers to hold the line against the corporate immunity proposal backed by U.S. Senate Republicans. In negotiations over the bill, Senate Republican leaders “are fighting for corporate immunity at the expense of workers, workers who risk their own safety [and the] safety of their families every single day just trying to earn a living. The Republican reckless proposal plays roulette with American lives, and the corporations always win,” Schumer said. McEachin added: “This pandemic is not the time for the GOP to further insulate their corporate friends from any accountability at the expense of working families.”

CDC’S CORONAVIRUS GUIDELINES ARE FILLED WITH LOOPHOLES: Coronavirus guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are riddled with caveats and qualifiers that allow businesses to say that they are complying, while they actually do little or nothing at all, according to a report Public Citizen released today. The large number of loopholes in the CDC’s recommendations take on extra importance in the context of proposals to grant businesses immunity from lawsuits when their negligence causes workers, consumers or patients to contract COVID-19. Even businesses that take no action to protect employees and consumers may be able to ‘comply’ by claiming that they ‘considered’ the guidelines.

PROPOSAL WOULD PENALIZE INDIVIDUALS FOR PURSUING LEGAL CLAIMS AGAINST COMPANIES : The Senate Republican corporate immunity proposal doesn’t just make it all but impossible for plaintiffs to succeed in a lawsuit over a coronavirus-related injury; it makes it potentially devastating for them to even consider suing, law professors Daniel Epps and Maria Glover noted. Under the bill, if a worker who got sick on the job sends a settlement asking the employer for compensation before filing suit, “the recipient of the request can seek compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees if the claim is ‘meritless.’… This provision would discourage reasonable requests for compensation by employees. And it may well violate the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech, given that it effectively punishes employees for simply communicating with their employers. Nor will victims easily find legal representation,” because the bill also creates liability for lawyers who seek to settle their clients claims. “These lucrative countersuits are subject to none of the stringent requirements the bill places on injured parties seeking compensation,” the professors noted.