Many Alaskans are more than ready to recover from the economic damage due to the pandemic and for life to return to normal. But as businesses and restaurants have reopened, customers, employees, and employers naturally are fearful of COVID-19 and how they might be affected by it. Customers and employees might wonder whether businesses are doing their due diligence to keep them safe. Employers, on the other hand, might worry about the risk of lawsuits if customers or employees believe they are infected while at work or while patronizing a business.
It is vitally important that the Alaskan economy gets back up and running, and that won’t happen unless business owners, employees, and customers all feel protected. Because of government mandates and public health guidelines, customers and employees know what safety precautions and cleaning procedures businesses should be taking to protect them from the coronavirus. But so far, businesses have been left in the dark as to how they will be protected from unexpected and expensive lawsuits.
While Alaska has had a much lower number of COVID-19 cases than most other states, health officials seem to think it is here to stay. So as businesses reopen and people are out and about more, some may be unknowingly exposed to the virus. Just as it is difficult to say exactly where an individual picked up the flu bug, it could be difficult to pinpoint exactly who is at fault for exposing someone to coronavirus. Business liability protection would shield businesses that have taken appropriate precautions to avoid spreading coronavirus from being wrongfully sued by a customer or employee for exposure.
If business owners take reasonable safety measures by following available public health guidelines, they shouldn’t have to work under the threat of virus-related litigation—business is risky enough. In fact, recent polling tells us that 44 percent of businesses have faced long-term negative impacts due to the economic shutdown. The last thing Alaska businesses need right now is to be financially burdened by lawsuits, despite taking steps to avoid spreading coronavirus.
While the federal government squabbles over how to protect businesses from unnecessary litigation, Alaska can move forward and protect its own economy, businesses, and business owners by implementing a statewide business liability protection policy. This would allow all parties involved to feel safer about returning to something closer to normalcy. Business liability protection is a key step in restarting our state’s economy.
Other states across the country have already taken steps to protect their businesses since the pandemic began, all the way from Utah to North Carolina. To protect the state’s economy and its businesses, Alaska should consider doing the same. Alaska businesses need to know that if they employ the right measures, they will be held harmless from further damage due to the pandemic, just as employees and customers need to know they are safe to go about their daily lives once again.