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Business needs statewide protection from lawsuits for protecting employees from COVID-19.

Businesses, governments and individuals are struggling. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all of our lives and threatened the stability of all entities across the globe.

Warner AllenBut here in Oregon, we are all in this together. We have taken steps to protect public health and enacted rules and regulations to ensure we are keeping people safe in and around our businesses.

But what we're missing is the protection for those who are making every effort to do everything right, follow all the guidelines and keep everyone safe.

What we're missing is limited COVID-19 liability protection.

Currently, even when businesses are following all state-issued orders and guidelines, they are at risk of being sued because of the steps they are taking to protect workers and customers, because of unintended exposure to COVID-19 or any number of situations outside of their control.

They can be sued for complying with the state's reopening requirements and they can be sued for taking additional steps to keep their employees safe.

Businesses that are implementing safety measures and working to comply with all directives of state health and safety officials should not have to defend themselves from unfair lawsuits.

Employers and businesses should be focused right now on adjusting their business models to prioritize the health of their workers and their customers and on getting people safely back to work, not on defending themselves from crippling lawsuits for simply doing the right thing.

Over 50 business associations, schools, nonprofits and local governments have signed a letter asking the state legislature to address this issue in the special session that began Aug. 10.

They have explicitly said that this protection should not apply to those who fail to comply with the state's guidelines, therefore incentivizing businesses and other entities to take additional steps to follow all rules and requirements.

They have also said that this limited liability protection would not extend in duration or scope beyond the COVID-19 crisis. They simply want the legislature to do the right thing for those businesses, schools, nonprofits and other entities who are doing the right thing themselves.

Businesses need to know that they are protected by temporary and targeted liability protection as they begin to bring their employees back to work and safely and slowly welcome the public back to their facilities.

This limited level of protection has bipartisan support from legislators and Oregonians statewide and should be prioritized by the legislature as it meets in Salem.

We must protect these businesses, the jobs they provide, and the stability they bring to our economy by implementing liability protection that is limited in scope and limited in duration to COVID-19. Oregon's businesses, schools, nonprofits and other entities need this protection if we are going to begin to recover from this devastating crisis.

— Warner Allen, an attorney, is past president of the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce.


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