Retail groups support federal liability shield for COVID-19 claims

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Retail groups support federal liability shield for COVID-19 claims

By Dan Berthiaume - 07/28/2020

The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) and National Retail Federation (NRF) both endorse a liability reform provision included in the latest proposed coronavirus stimulus package.

The HEALS (Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools) Act, introduced in the U.S. Senate on July 27, includes federal protection for employers against what RILA senior VP of public affairs Michael Hanson called “meritless” COVID-19 claims.

“Since the first appearance of COVID-19, retailers and their employees have been working diligently to ensure customers have the goods and services they need during this pandemic,” Hanson said in an official statement. “Retailers have followed safety guidelines and mandates issued by the CDC, state, and local governments and are implementing innovative ways to improve the shopping experience to further protect employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate. 

“Federal law should protect, not punish, these employers when they can demonstrate they have followed safety guidelines and mandates issued by government authorities. During these incredibly challenging times, retailers want to dedicate their resources towards rebuilding their operations and rehiring employees, not on expensive legal fees required to defend against baseless claims.”

Hanson also praised Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) for providing leadership on the employer liability issue and said RILA looks forward to building bipartisan support. The initial draft of the HEALS Act was introduced into the Senate by Republicans, and it is expected that Democrats in both the House and Senate will want to make significant changes before agreeing to pass the bill into law.

In addition, David French, senior VP for government relations, NRF, issued a statement in support of the bill.

"While understanding that the HEALS Act introduced by Majority Leader McConnell has a long way to go before Congress agrees to a final compromise, we are very pleased to see the targeted and temporary liability protection for businesses and schools as well as a package of economic stimulus provisions through direct aid to individuals and a hybrid extension of enhanced federal unemployment insurance," said French. "These important steps will continue progress toward sustaining the reopening of the economy. Also, allowing eligible businesses to take a second Paycheck Protection Program loan addresses the uncertain length of the crisis and the package includes critical tax provisions that will help offset the enormous costs of personal protective equipment and allow more businesses to utilize the enhanced employee retention credit."

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