• Ryan Himes

OPINION: Liability Protection From COVID

Updated: Dec 7, 2020

The new proposed stimulus bill created by a bipartisan group in Congress was just endorsed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. The bill itself contains a $908 billion stimulus package, liability protection for businesses, and an additional lending program to small businesses. The stimulus is too small for how long it took to get here, but today that's not my main concern.

Today, the issue I'm having is the liability protection for businesses planning to bring their employees back to work. The bill announced on the same day that hospitalizations in the US reached an all-time high, surpassing 100,000 for the first time, as well as deaths reaching an all-time high, reaching above 2,600 deaths for the day. Meanwhile the bill extended a protection against liability or fault to businesses that could essentially force their employees back to work, or fire them if they don't comply.

After all that the Federal Reserve and Congress have done to protect and stimulate businesses (and not people) during the Pandemic, this seems like a shot across the bow. This is a direct quote from Dolph Lundgren in Rocky IV, "if he dies, he dies." That's what the lawmakers in Congress are saying about employees during the Pandemic. This section of the bill indirectly suggests that these employees are disposable and do not require protection.

So, to those who support the liability protection being granted to businesses: let me ask a question. Why do businesses need liability protection during the Pandemic in a capitalist society?

In capitalism, the law of the free market states that if no worker will perform the labor, the employer must raise the wage (pay) to find a worker willing to perform the labor. So if businesses are struggling to find workers to perform for them right now, capitalism suggests that you aren't enticing them with a high enough wage to perform the work that needs to be done. And that's because in a capitalist society, we wouldn't need a liability protection. Yet this is an act that explicitly reduces the rights of employees during a Pandemic.

In my humble opinion, this is an embarrassment to the United States. Our government is enforcing our employees to return to work under the threat of losing their jobs during a Pandemic. If they get sick from exposure they incurred while working, they cannot sue their employer for making them work or increasing their exposure to the virus. These are our lawmakers? These are the people who represent us?

They sure as hell don't represent me or the people I care about if they sign this protection into law.