Ohio Senate Advances Coronavirus Lawsuit Protection Legislation Without Harmful Workers’ Compensation Presumption

The Ohio Chamber’s pursuit of obtaining legal protections from coronavirus litigation for all employers took another step forward yesterday as House Bill 606 (HB 606) cleared the Ohio Senate. This vote on the Senate floor followed action by the Senate Judiciary Committee where the harmful workers’ compensation presumption was removed, and several other amendments were added to the legislation.

By removing the workers’ compensation presumption and voting in favor of HB 606, the Ohio Senate stood with employers across the state who are doing their part to restore Ohio’s economy despite knowing the risk a customer is exposed to the coronavirus remains no matter what steps a business takes to prevent it.

The qualified immunity contained in HB 606 – and Senate Bill 308 – assist employer efforts to rebuild following the pandemic and aid in Ohio’s economic recovery because the legal protections let employers focus on re-establishing their business and serving their customers without fear of potential litigation. Likewise, mitigating the fear of litigation by providing employers with qualified immunity will help Ohio employers properly re-open because it shrinks their incentive to keep in place severe operating restrictions that hurt revenue streams and their ability to re-hire former employees.

Although yesterday was an important part of the legislative process for HB 606, its path to reaching the governor’s desk for his signature before the fall is unclear since the Ohio House is not scheduled to return to Columbus until September. Without the House in session, the lower chamber will be unable to concur with the Senate amendments which means employers will be left without any legal protections from lawsuits that seek to hold them liable for a risk they cannot eliminate for months to come. 

The Ohio Chamber believes the House should act quickly on HB 606 and concur with the Senate amendments because in order for Ohio’s economy to fully recover from the effects of the Stay at Home Order there must be legal protections from coronavirus lawsuits for employers in place that assures business owners their decision to open or lift operating limits will not result in a lawsuit.