Workers May Be at Risk Because of Limits on Liability

As states across the country begin to reopen and lift stay-at-home orders, many are worried about their risk of infection at work as the pandemic continues to affect millions across various states. 

Some states have met this trepidation with new regulations that businesses must follow to reopen, such as social distancing, redesigning interior spaces to maintain six feet of distance between patrons, and utilizing personal protection equipment. However, other states are enforcing fewer rules and instead allowing businesses to operate within their own criteria of protection. 

In these instances, workers are worried about their safety as they are given the option to go back to work or stay home and potentially lose their unemployment benefits. Businesses claim that they are worried about opening and leaving themselves vulnerable to claims that workers or patrons contracted covid-19 while on their premises.

risk

While an employee may have options for compensation under workers compensation if they get sick at work, this amount may not cover the possibility of serious medical care or possible death from the novel coronavirus. Workers are also worried that their lives will be unjustly put at risk for the gains of a business and then have their rights of just compensation taken away as states begin to place limitations on a business’s liability.

States like North Carolina and others will put limitations on the liability a business has for an employee who contracts covid-19 while at work. In some instances, businesses may be immune to any charges. 

“As businesses begin to reopen, there is an indecisive landscape ahead for both businesses and employees to face regarding infection with the novel coronavirus,” explained Attorney Ben Whitley of the Whitley Law Firm. 

Updates to Business Liability

One of the biggest concern’s businesses have is that reopening could put them at risk of lengthy and expensive lawsuits. On the flip side, they are also worried that staying closed could have an equally expensive cost. However, many workers are worried that their safety will be sacrificed in favor of businesses.

As workers across the country continue to have serious health complications from the coronavirus due to dealing with customers, republican lawmakers have pushed for temporary limits on liability so workplaces can have the confidence to open without fear of lawsuits stemming from the virus. This can limit the legal liability a business has in areas like worker privacy, employment discrimination, and product manufacturing. 

While employees may still have access to lost wages under workers compensation, some worry that there will not be remedy for medical bills or other costs stemming from infection caught at work. Furthermore, those opposed to the limits on business liability say that instead of tempting businesses to reopen, it will tempt them to relax their commitment to coronavirus regulations. Without fear of liability, some businesses may not bother enforcing social distancing, wearing masks while on the premises, or sanitizing surfaces, creating an unsafe work environment.

Currently, this law has only passed in North Carolina and is in effect for any claims arising 180 days or less after the executive order declaring a state of emergency in the state due to covid-19. Lawmakers in Texas and other states have also shown support for the law, saying that it will help restart the economy after months of downturn by giving businesses confidence that they will not face possible liability lawsuits once reopened. 

How to Proceed

This is an unprecedented time. As many are forced into impossible decisions and circumstances, workers and their families are having to reevaluate many elements within their lives. While some states have reopened and closed again, many others are on track to open within the coming weeks. This means the possibility of more businesses pushing lawmakers for limits on their liability.

The current changes to the law may limit a person’s rights in certain states, but there may be ways for employees to seek legal compensation through other methods. While it may be a confusing situation, there are many outlets for legal representation for workers who were infected while at their place of employment. 

As lawmakers continue to update the laws and regulations surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, some workers may find it helpful to talk to a personal injury or workers compensation attorney to understand the full breath of their rights if they go back to work during this complicated time.

Nonetheless, it appears that there is still much to be decided when it comes to the reopening of businesses during a global pandemic. As many start to reimagine their lives under a new normal, businesses and employees are trying to find a common ground with which to reopen and pursue a return to a more normal life. 

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