Businesses, healthcare facilities, and various employers in Georgia will continue to have partial legal immunity from coronavirus lawsuits filed by employees due to a recent legislative extension. Recently, the COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act was approved to continue to July 14th, 2022. Until that date – or another if it is extended a second time – employees who want to sue their employer for exposing them to the coronavirus in the workplace will have a difficult time.
The act makes it so employees cannot file a civil claim for damages against their employer if they are diagnosed with COVID-19 after likely encountering the virus in their workplace as long as that employer took reasonable precautions to prevent the virus’s spread. A “reasonable” precaution has been largely left to interpretation to benefit employers. For example, if an employer allows employees to wear masks and instructs them to social distance when possible, then it is likely that a court would say that the employer had taken enough precautions to qualify for legal immunity against coronavirus-related lawsuits.
Two exceptions to the legal immunities are:
- Gross negligence: An employer could be accused of gross negligence if they inadvertently put employees at risk of catching the coronavirus when another employer would have likely made a different decision to avoid the situation. However, as we have mentioned, disproving gross negligence is easier than proving it due to the leniency the law provides businesses.
- Intentional wrongdoing: If an employer intentionally places an employee in a situation that could result in a coronavirus contraction, and that employee is unaware of that risk or the risk is abnormal, then it could constitute intentional wrongdoing.
Importantly, when the COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act was extended, it was noted that it is not meant to interfere with workers’ compensation filings related to coronavirus exposures in workplaces. Employees who are diagnosed with COVID-19 can still attempt to get workers’ comp benefits. Such filings are hotly contested, though, because insurance companies and employers are prone to arguing that the claimant was exposed to the virus somewhere else, like at a family gathering or while picking up groceries.
To learn more about workers’ compensation claims or work injury lawsuits related to the coronavirus, and how to file them in Georgia, call (770) 629-9321 and connect with The Law Offices of Nathaniel F. Hansford, LLC. Our attorneys would be happy to review the details of a potential claim during a free initial case evaluation.