Can Florida Employers Be Held Responsible for Their Workers’ COVID-19 Infections?
There is an ongoing debate around whether businesses and employers should be held responsible when employees contract the COVID-19 disease at work.
As businesses in Florida are operating as part of the state’s Phase 2 of reopening after a months-long coronavirus shutdown, many business owners are concerned about a possible wave of COVID-19-related lawsuits from their employees and customers.
A business owner interviewed by CNBC complained that a lot of their customers are not wearing face masks even though his business is following all the rules regarding social distancing, stickers on the floor, gloves, masks, temperature checks, and many others.
U.S. Lawmakers Are Considering to Give Businesses Immunity
Concerns about potential business litigation will be considered in Congress, as legislators are planning to pass another stimulus package. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already announced that he is working on a bill to include liability protection for businesses affected by the coronavirus crisis. McConnell declared that “the litigation epidemic has already begun.”
Republican lawmakers in Congress argue that businesses should get broad protections from coronavirus-related lawsuits by workers and customers who are infected with COVID-19 and are blaming the business for causing them to contract the disease.
Republicans believe that lawsuits would negatively affect businesses that are trying to reopen after months of closure and argue that these liability protections would also benefit the country’s economy as a whole.
However, Democrats said they would fight any proposals to give businesses immunity, arguing that such protections could restrict employees’ right to sue. Others also argue that these liability protections would shield bad businesses from liability, making it impossible to punish companies whose gross negligence and carelessness put their workers’ lives and health at risk.
Employers’ Liability for Their Employees’ COVID-19 Infections
Supporters of the proposal to grant businesses immunity from lawsuits argue that “blanket liability shield” is not the goal of those protections. Instead, business groups are asking for a heightened standard before coronavirus-related liability would apply. Also, lawmakers have previously suggested that liability would be limited to COVID-19 claims.
In the absence of a law that would give businesses immunity from coronavirus-related lawsuits, employees may be able to sue their employers if they contract the COVID-19 disease in the workplace. However, proving that a worker contracted the disease in the workplace can be challenging, given that they may have been infected somewhere else.
Under Florida’s employment law, a worker who contracted a disease at work must prove causation. Thus, employees could be reluctant to sue their employer even if they believe that they were infected with COVID-19 in the workplace. Rather, many of them would opt for collecting benefits through the workers’ compensation system.
If you are a business owner and are facing a coronavirus-related lawsuit from your workers or customers, consult with a knowledgeable West Palm Beach business litigation attorney. Schedule a case review by contacting our lawyers at Pike & Lustig, LLP. Call at 561-291-8298.