As the world is responding to the daily challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the government faces critical decisions that weigh public health against economic resilience. Congress is currently battling with the question of whether to grant companies immunity from lawsuits related to the contraction of the virus.
What this proposed legislation would mean, in practical terms, is that any business would be immune from legal repercussions if any of their workers or consumers contracted the virus. This protection would apply even if the business engaged in unsafe practices that put people’s health at risk.
Public opinion on the proposal
Many constituents across party lines are worried that giving carte blanche to companies could open the door to reckless business practices such as cutting corners with respect to worker and customer safety. Should nursing homes no longer be held accountable if they engage in negligent behavior that compromises their residents’ health? Should warehouse managers be allowed to force their staff to work in close proximity with each other – without adequate protection?
The answer to these questions, according to the majority of voters, is “no.” Hart Research Associates recently conducted a survey of 1,202 voters across party lines (Republican, Democrat, 3rd party and undecided). The results found that 64% of voters oppose business immunity – and that the majority of respondents from each party held the same opinion on the matter.
Three in five respondents believed that businesses would take fewer precautions to protect public health if they knew they couldn’t be sued. This would lead to more coronavirus infections.
Of the group surveyed, 42% has lost their job or experienced a significant loss in income as a result of the pandemic. Interestingly, even this group opposed the legislation by 63%.
Ultimately, granting lawsuit immunity to businesses could open the door to companies skimping on safety precautions in favor of profit. Such actions could put the country collectively at risk.