After a flurry of activity the past two days that culminated with House Bill 606 (HB 606) clearing both legislative chambers, Ohio employers are finally the stroke of the governor’s pen away from having the legal certainty needed to focus on rebuilding their workforce and business rather than avoiding costly lawsuits.
This is welcome news to the Ohio Chamber of Commerce and our partners at the Ohio Alliance for Civil Justice since we have worked from the beginning of the pandemic to enact these legal protections because our membership shared their concerns about the legal unknowns associated with operating a business during a pandemic.
Under HB 606, all Ohio employers are granted qualified immunity from lawsuits alleging their action or inaction exposed someone to COVID-19. This immunity exists from the date of the governor’s state of emergency order – March 9, 2020 – and ends on Sept. 30, 2021, so Ohio businesses will have immunity from these types of lawsuits for up to an 18-month period. In addition to this general immunity coverage, Ohio’s health care providers will also have legal protections against litigation arising from care delivered in response to the coronavirus.
With their votes in favor of this legislation, the Ohio House and Ohio Senate showed they recognize any economic recovery in the Buckeye State starts with businesses knowing their decision to re-open or to return to normal business hours will not result in a lawsuit. Likewise, their votes protect businesses across Ohio from being held responsible for a risk they cannot eliminate because – unlike a hole in a company’s parking lot – the risk of transmitting the coronavirus remains no matter what a business does. Ohio business owners have been asking their elected officials to stand with them in their efforts to keep Ohio’s economy moving forward, so the Ohio Chamber commends the work of the legislature on HB 606, and we eagerly await the governor signaling his support of Ohio’s business community by quickly signing the bill.