FRANKFORT, Ky. — Some opponents fear a bill moving through the Kentucky legislature would provide immunity for businesses that fail to protect employees from COVID-19.
Those in favor say Kentucky House Bill 10 would help businesses reopen without the threat of misguided civil lawsuits.
The full Kentucky House recently passed House Bill 10, which would essentially ramp up protections for businesses against civil claims from someone saying they caught COVID-19 at said establishment. Looking at the language more specifically, the bill would "provide a defense to civil liability to a person who acts in good faith while operating a business during a state of emergency for ordinary negligence for a personal injury resulting from alleged or actual exposure to COVID-19 provided the person acts as an ordinary, reasonable, and prudent person would act under similar circumstances."
Rep. Steve Sheldon, R- Bowling Green, said helping Kentucky find a return to normalcy is a top priority this session. He said that is a reason why he co-sponsored this bill.
“The devastation that small business and our economy has endured to date, they certainly don’t need one more barrier to jump over,” Sheldon said.
United Food and Commercial Workers Local 227, a union that represents many food industry workers in the state, claims this would provide too much protection for employers who fail to protect employees.
“Not only is this type of legislation unnecessary, but it creates a race to the bottom environment when there is no accountability for an employer that doesn’t take reasonable steps to protect their workers from the spread of the virus in the workplace,” Caitlin Blair of UFCW Local 227 said.
Rep. Sheldon said the bill would not provide protection to businesses that fail to protect workers. HB10 would only provide a defense to civil liability if the business acts "unreasonably."
"As far as businesses go, they can't do anything they want to do. They have to go by CDC guidelines," Sheldon said.
He also said, under HB10, employees could still sue employers if that employer is not meeting those CDC guidelines. It passed the full House 75-21 on Jan. 9. Sheldon is said he is confident it will have majority support in the Senate too.