Written by Tisha Black

Employer COVID Liability Protections

COVID-19 Employer liability lawsuits commenced early after state quarantines began. Generally, the suits allege employers should be held responsible for an employee’s contracting COVID as a result of working or the working environment. Historically, Nevada Employers have been protected from these claims due to the enactment of Nevada’s WorkerCompensation Act but that protection could be diminished (if not demolished altogether) with the wave of COVID Employer Liability lawsuits if COVID claims are excluded from workers compensation coverage.  

The Claims:  

Lawsuits against employers related to COVID generally claim that the employer failed to follow guidance issued by either state or Federal Authorities such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Center for Disease Control (CDC).  

Employer Protections: 

Federal.  

The federal Safe to Work Act, S. 4317, could provide Nevada Employers protection from this line of lawsuits retroactively through 2024 however, the passage of the act has been stalled in negotiations related to the next Corona Virus relief package.  

State 

The Nevada Legislature, at the conclusion the last Special Legislative Session,  passed a law that grants most businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies employer immunity from COVID-19-related lawsuits so long as they adhere to requirements promulgated by local, state and federal agencies, and refrain from acting in a grossly negligent manner.  

Take Away:  

Although Congress has yet to pass the Safe Work Act, Nevada has enacted a protective Employer statute so long as employers adhere to certain local and state guidelines. Accordingly, prudent and concerned employers (as the majority are) should establish and conduct training on COVID workplace procedures that follow:  

  • CDC guidelines for businesses, including best practices for social distancing, cleaning and disinfecting the workplace, and quarantining;  
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) most recent guidelines as a resource when creating return-to-work policies;  
  • Stay on top of current and evolving guidelines from the CDC, OSHA, the U.S. Department of Labor and https://nvhealthresponse.nv.gov/ for Nevada’s requirements; and  
  • Keep records of training and all COVID related procedures and cautions.  

Conclusion:  

Employers need the protections provided by the Nevada legislature and hoped for Safe to Work Act, however, employers should not feel so comforted by this limited protection to be lax in protecting employees. Employers must at all times act in good faith to ensure the health and safety of their employees and guests. Any act that constitutes gross negligence or intentional bad acts, WILL result in Employer liability, as it should.

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