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BIA urges quick passage of safe harbor bill

BIA urges quick passage of safe harbor bill

The Business and Industry Association, New Hampshire’s statewide chamber of commerce and leading business advocate, is spearheading an effort to establish a legal safe harbor for New Hampshire employers who have complied with federal and state COVID-19 health and safety guidelines to protect them from unwarranted lawsuits from employees, customers or others who may have contracted the coronavirus and are seeking damages.

Speaking before the Senate Commerce committee in support of SB 63, David Creer, BIA’s director of public policy, said that nearly three dozen statewide trade associations and local chambers of commerce, representing thousands of New Hampshire businesses, also strongly support the legislation.

“SB 63 provides protections against costly and time-consuming lawsuits related to COVID-19 for employers who are acting in good faith by following state and federal health and safety guidelines during the pandemic,” said Creer. “Ninety-nine percent (99%) of businesses are doing everything they can to protect the health of their employees and third parties who enter their businesses. Those who aren’t won’t be protected under this bill, nor should they be,” he added.

Despite the care employers are taking to maintain a safe workplace, businesses fear they’ll be sued from people claiming to have contracted COVID-19 at the enterprise. While the claim would be difficult to prove, it would nevertheless cost tens of thousands of dollars to defend against. “Defending against a spurious lawsuit could put many struggling small employers out of business,” Creer said.

While no lawsuits have yet been filed in New Hampshire, nearly 200 have been filed across the United States alleging exposure to COVID-19 as a part of the claim. BIA, which has been advocating on this issue since last spring, organized a working group of leading employers and some of the state’s most respected attorneys to craft the safe harbor language that became the basis of SB 63.

“Thirty-one other states have passed or are currently considering similar safe harbor protections,” Creer added. “We should not fall behind other states that are looking to help their businesses and spur economic recovery. Nor should we wait until after employers are subjected to spurious lawsuits to act,” he concluded.


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