On July 10th, U.S. Congressman Garret Graves introduced The Get America Back to Work Act of 2020, a bipartisan bill that would allow small businesses and their hard workers to reopen without the threat of frivolous lawsuits associated with COVID-19. The bipartisan bill protects businesses and their employees from being sued provided they took reasonable steps to comply with the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) or appropriate health authorities.
Providing legal safe harbor against frivolous lawsuits for small businesses as they reopen will be a key component of the next COVID-19 package – this bill provides a framework in the U.S. House. The bill was introduced with Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX).
“We have rightfully gotten cities, states and localities across Louisiana and the country back up and running from pandemic-related closures, and some small businesses might feel at risk should they open their doors. For most small businesses, just one frivolous tort claim over the spread of COVID-19 could mean the difference in weathering this crisis versus closing their doors forever,” said Graves. “This bill is eight pages. It has no poison pills or miscellaneous pork spending. Straightforward, common-sense, and bipartisan solutions is how the government should work when addressing urgent, time-sensitive legislation.”
“As we begin to reopen, it is critical our small businesses who follow CDC health and safety standards are given protections to stay open and serve their community,” said Congressman Cuellar. “This bipartisan legislation will enact liability protections for businesses that adopt safety protocols to shield them from frivolous lawsuits. Furthermore, these much-needed legal protections also prioritize the health of workers if businesses show gross negligence or blatant indifference to these standards. As a former small business owner, I am committed to fighting for well-being of our small businesses, workers, and rebuild our strong economy. I want to thank Congressman Graves for his leadership on this initiative.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated our nation’s economy, and as businesses across the country struggle to rebuild and recover, the last thing they should be worried about is a frivolous lawsuit,” said LABI President and CEO Stephen Waguespack. “Congressman Graves’ legislation is a smart, bipartisan, common-sense bill that prevents opportunistic litigation against the essential businesses, individuals, and medical professionals that have worked tirelessly to safely serve our communities.”
“In effort to ensure that consumers are able to continue receiving the goods and supplies needed for daily living, we must protect those that are serving on the frontline as they adhere to the safety precautions recommended by the administration and CDC. In doing so we must also identify ways to limit the liability and exposure faced by business owners and providers on a daily basis,” said Kelisha Garrett, Executive Director of the Louisiana Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
The bill also contains a parallel safe harbor for medical professionals and health care providers acting within the scope of their training, and also limits OSHA’s ability to issue citations for the possible spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.