Legal practices across the United States predicted this trend long ago: that cases related to coronavirus and employment would spike when restrictions started to relax. And then cases did. Now, businesses are trying to protect themselves by asking clients, customers, and employees to waive away their right to sue if they get coronavirus while going about their normal business. Other are asking whether or not these outrageous waivers are actually legally binding.
In fact, you’ve already seen one example of those waivers in the news. President Trump asked the (relatively few) attendees at his Tulsa rally to waive their right to sue his administration if they got sick while there.
Unsurprisingly, Republican lawmakers want to increase protections for businesses. Those protections could mean waivers like these will become standard practice.
The waivers aren’t necessarily bad by themselves, especially if businesses are following all the standardized procedures and precautions outlined by the CDC and WHO. But the opponents of these waivers argue that businesses are more likely to get away with blatant infractions if these waivers are signed.
Another argument against waivers is because employees won’t really have a choice: it’s either sign or lose the job at a time when there aren’t many jobs open, and health insurance is a valuable commodity.
National Employment Law Project attorney Hugh Baran said, “It’s a terrible choice for an employee. Do you sign this and potentially give up your legal recourse or do you refuse and feel like you are going to lose your job?”
Of course, not everyone agrees. There will always be someone to argue on behalf of the other side.
Professor John Wolohan of Syracuse University said, “It’s hard for me to believe people don’t understand the danger of going out in public and interacting. But when somebody gets sick, I’m sure they’re going to claim the business didn’t protect them the way they should have. By having a waiver, the business will better withstand the lawsuit.”