There is no doubt that every community across the United States has been economically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Salaries have been cut, businesses have had to permanently close their doors, and retirement accounts have taken an irreparable hit. However, a recent poll from Hart Research Group has concluded that most Americans are prioritizing health and safety over rushing to reopen businesses and hopes Congress will do the same.
Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell issued what he called the GOP’s “redline” in future negotiations with Democrats stating that Republicans won’t agree to a new legislative package to fund states and cities unless Democrats agree to protecting business owners from lawsuits related to COVID-19. Senator McConnell warned that the failure to protect business owners from such lawsuits would “dramatically slow” economic recovery.
While Congress decides how to best address a pandemic that has infected at least 1.26 million Americans, killed more than 74,000 Americans, and has forced 1 in 5 American workers to file for unemployment benefits since mid-March, Senator McConnell is instead concerning himself with addressing what he has called “the lawsuit pandemic.” In a rush to get the economy back up and running, the Senator is more interested in protecting employers than ensuring worker protections are in place and that guidance by health officials will be followed. Providing such immunity would effectively deprive constitutional rights from those who become infected at work due to their employer’s negligence.
The poll conducted by Hart Research Group shows that there is broad bipartisan opposition among American voters to such legislation. In fact, the results show that a majority of voters believe that rushing to re-open businesses will actually lead to more people becoming infected due to companies’ ability to cut corners in taking proper safety precautions. Of course, the vast majority of Americans want to see our economy make a full recovery, however, providing business owners with the ability to act negligently without consequences is unnecessary and irresponsible. Frankly, there should be no reason to suspect an oncoming “lawsuit avalanche” against employers who follow the law, obey instructions from health officials, and simply care about the safety of their employees.
Clearly, we are all anxiously awaiting for the world to get back to normal, but, rushing to reopen the economy by turning a blind eye to negligence is not the answer.
Cheyenne Benyi is an associate attorney at Grewal Law PLLC. Her practice focuses primarily on cannabis law, criminal defense, and general practice matters.