INDIANAPOLIS — COVID-19 legal protections for Indiana businesses will be one of the first pieces of legislation debated in January.
Lawmakers said this issue is likely to be fast-tracked due to demand. However, it will be a bit of a balancing act in 2021. Legislators said they want to make sure companies, employees and customers are all protected under this legislation.
“We’re not talking about protections for bad actors,” explained Indiana Chamber of Commerce President Kevin Brinegar. He said businesses aren’t asking for a pass for egregious behavior.
“I think it will help drive even better behavior,” said Brinegar.
Brinegar said a liability protections law would lay out what’s legally expected from Hoosier businesses to keep employees and customers safe from COVID-19.
“Our encouragement will be ‘follow these guidelines, meet these standards and then you will be protected from lawsuits of this type,’” said Brinegar.
Similar measures are already in place throughout the country.
“States like Utah, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Ohio,” said Brinegar.
So far, the idea has the support of Indiana’s legislative leadership. Speaker Todd Huston and Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray said constituents have been asking for this for a while now.
“I’ve been all around the state over the last four or five months and that comes up about every time I am out,” said Bray.
“It’s been across the board, it’s been across sectors, manufacturing, the legal profession, clearly obviously in the hospitality industry,” said Huston.
“It’s not just fear, lawsuits are being filed both at the state and federal level both here and across the country,” said Brinegar.
And because of that, time is of the essence to get this passed.
“That is a key element to getting our state into a full economic recovery and moving forward post-pandemic,” said Brinegar.
According to a COVID-19 litigation tracker, Indiana has had 18 COVID-19 employment cases since April.
Most of the cases overall have come from the manufacturing industry.