The Ohio Senate has passed legislation that will help businesses reopen their doors to customers and employees. The bill – Senate Bill 308 (SB 308) – was an Ohio Chamber key vote recorded in our Free Enterprise Index due to its significant positive impact on Ohio’s business climate.
Under SB 308, businesses of all types in Ohio including non-profits, churches and educational institutions will have qualified immunity from litigation that alleges harm resulting from exposure to the coronavirus. This qualified immunity will last through April 1, 2021 and applies so long as an employer does not engage in reckless or intentional conduct or willful or wanton misconduct.
The Ohio Chamber and our partners with the Ohio Alliance for Civil Justice worked tirelessly with Senator Matt Huffman, the bill’s sponsor, to craft SB 308 so that it gives all employers in Ohio broad legal protections from coronavirus lawsuits.
Putting in place a higher legal standard for bringing coronavirus lawsuits is the right approach to take as Ohio’s economy begins its recovery following the pandemic because the risk of spreading the virus remains no matter how responsibly an employer acts or what precautions they undertake. As a result, an alleged exposure to the coronavirus by a customer or an employee does not reflect how safe an employer’s place of business is for individuals.
Not affording employers the legal protections contained in SB 308 will slow Ohio’s economic recovery because business owners will be fearful to reopen completely due to the risk of a potential coronavirus lawsuit alleging they opened too soon. However, enacting the legal protections in SB 308 will remove this obstacle to economic recovery by helping employers bring back their workforces sooner, increase their productivity and focus on serving their customers like they did prior to the coronavirus. As SB 308 moves to the Ohio House, the Ohio Chamber will continue advocating for its passage because the bill will aid Ohio’s economic comeback by enabling employers to focus on rebuilding their business without the fear of litigation.