Conservatives for Abusive Lawsuits
Get ready for a surge in Covid-related employment lawsuits, driven in part by conservative state lawmakers who are introducing bills to expand liability against employers that require vaccines.
If these measures pass, employers will face a sued-if-you-do, sued-if-you-don’t situation. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires large businesses to mandate employee vaccinations and imposes hefty fines for failure to comply. Even if the Supreme Court strikes down the OSHA rule, employers are at risk for liability claims, particularly when employees work in high-risk environments, unless they adopt adequate safety measures.
These bills would also undermine state workers-compensation systems, the traditional mechanism for compensating employees injured on the job, and conflict with the federal Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act of 2005, which provides immunity to private employers and others that administer vaccination programs.
Conservative lawmakers traditionally oppose such liability-expanding initiatives, but in this case they’re leading the charge. Such bills have been introduced in Alabama, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Oklahoma. It’s regrettable to see past proponents of civil-justice reform take such a turn. America is already litigious enough.
Since 2020, about two-thirds of states have appropriately recognized that the uncertainty of a once-in-a-century pandemic required the enactment of legislation to protect businesses, healthcare providers and others from meritless lawsuits by raising the standard for liability or providing a defense to those that comply with applicable public-health guidance. But some of these protections will expire if legislatures don’t extend them.
Lawmakers should prioritize passing and extending balanced proposals that protect the public while deterring senseless lawsuits. Laws providing new avenues to sue reverse needed reforms and hurt the important progress that has been made.
U.S. employers already are subjected to Covid-related personal-injury, employment, contract and other lawsuits and claims. Legislation that relaxes the need to prove causation or authorizes statutory minimum damages, regardless of whether a plaintiff experienced an injury, is dangerous and would lead only to unnecessary and abusive lawsuits.