Today, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) joined over 100 other organizations in sending a letter to congressional leadership urging Congress against passing legislation that would shield businesses from liability during the COVID-19 pandemic. Any legislation that would that would immunize businesses that fail to ensure safe workplaces will subject essential and frontline workers, who are disproportionately Black and people of color, to unsafe working conditions and prohibit them from recovering from harm.
Black people are already disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 across the nation. In more than a dozen states, the percentage of Black COVID-19-related deaths far exceed — in some states double or triple — the state’s Black population. Allowing businesses to be shielded from liability will further exacerbate the impact on the Black community. Long-established legal principles recognize that a business owner may be liable for negligently exposing its employees or customers to hazardous risks, and neither Congress nor the White House should attempt to override these long-accepted principles. As states prematurely lift stay-at-home orders, elected officials are contemplating removing time-tested legal safeguards to protect workers from infection, injury, and possibly death. Without the weight of legal responsibility, businesses will have little incentive to protect workers and every incentive to prioritize profit at the cost of workers’ health.
Read the joint letter here.