St. Joseph is letting its stay-at-home order expire and allowing businesses in the area to reopen. The decision will allow more people to interact with each other in public, which is going to increase the number of coronavirus cases in the area.
This raises a crucial question: When people get sick because of actions taken by businesses or their boss, can they file a personal injury lawsuit and recover compensation?
Lawmakers in Congress are debating this very question. It will have a significant impact on workers’ compensation claims in the coming months.
The Big Issue: Employer Liability for the Spread of the Coronavirus
The problem is not one that many people think about, but it is a very important and straightforward one: Should businesses and employers be held accountable for decisions they make that end up spreading the coronavirus and getting people sick?
By now everyone is aware that there are numerous things that we can do to minimize our risks of getting exposed to the virus. We can wear masks, stay at least six feet away from other people, wash our hands, and avoid crowds by staying at home.
But as the economy “reopens,” stores and employers will bring back their employees and customers will come out of isolation. These businesses will have serous choices to make.
A Perfect Example: Triumph Foods
A great example of the choices that businesses make as they reopen is Triumph Foods, the meat processing plant in St. Joseph.
The plant has proven to be an epicenter for the spread of the virus. 2,900 people work there, often standing shoulder-to-shoulder on assembly lines. The working conditions have led to 422 confirmed cases of the coronavirus.
Triumph Foods claims to be following health guidelines, requires workers with symptoms to stay away from the plant for 10 days, and has offered masks for its workers. But workers claim that Triumph’s actions have not been enough. The virus continues to spread and infect workers who depend on their jobs for their livelihood.
Congress Considers Blanket Immunity for Businesses
Now, the U.S. Senate wants to provide legal immunity for businesses that open up, bring workers and customers in, and then get them sick. If successful, that immunity would mean that people who contracted the coronavirus would be unable to recover compensation from the business or corporation that made decisions meant to maximize their profits at the risk of exposing people to the virus.
For meat processing workers at Triumph, this would mean that they would not be able to sue the company for not taking precautions and failing to keep them safe.
Nevertheless, Republicans in the Senate are now insisting that the legal immunity for businesses be included in any future coronavirus stimulus plan.
St. Joseph Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at the Smith Law Office
Blanket legal immunities like this one are a serious danger to victims who have been put in harm’s way by a company that values profits over the health of their customers. They are even worse for employees who have little choice but to accept the risk of exposure to the virus, out of fear of losing their job.