Creating a legal “safe harbor” to protect employers from unwarranted COVID-19 related lawsuits has been a priority for BIA since the pandemic hit last winter. Businesses that are “doing the right thing” by closely following federal and state health and safety guidelines should not have to contend with misguided, nuisance lawsuits from employees, customers or visitors to the workplace (or school or place of worship or gathering place). To be clear, safe harbor protections should not extend to employers who are guilty of gross negligence, willful misconduct, intentional criminal misconduct, or intentional infliction of harm. But without safe harbor liability protection for businesses acting in good faith, many have been deterred from reopening and others from returning to pre-pandemic operations. This is exactly the opposite of what policy makers should be working toward.
Below, in reverse chronological order, is a timeline of BIA’s efforts in this area. BIA will not rest until New Hampshire policymakers or federal legislators create a legal safe harbor.
BIA "Safe Harbor " Activity Timeline
- BIA and NH education organizations urge Congress to include “Safe Harbor” language to next federal Coronavirus response bill in a letter to NH Congressional delegation co-signed by BIA, the NH College and University Council, NH School Administrators Association, NH School Boards Association, and Saint Anselm College, and distribute a statewide news release announcing business and education communities' concerns over COVID-19 related liability (Aug 12, 2020).
- BIA focuses on business vulnerability and the need for “Safe Harbors” in BIA Perspective “Legal safe harbor protects against squall” Union Leader Column (Aug 9, 2020)
- BIA urges action on “Safe Harbor” language as a part of the next federal Coronavirus response bill in a letter to Congressional delegation (July 16, 2020).
- The critical need for "Safe Harbors" are discussed in "COVID-19 Leaves Businesses Uncertain," a BIA written Op/ED published by Business NH Magazine (July 2020).
- BIA focuses on why businesses are at risk and need “Safe Harbors” in BIA Perspective “A ‘To Do’ list for lawmakers” Union Leader Column (July 4, 2020).
- BIA explains why policy makers need to create “Safe Harbors” in BIA Perspective “Reopening NH businesses requires special care from policymakers” Union Leader Column (May 16, 2020).
- BIA focuses attention on need for "Safe Harbors" by hosting a Zoom Webinar “Q&A with the Experts: Safe Harbor Protections from COVID-19 liability litigation" (May 13, 2002).
- BIA urges the Governor use his emergency powers to create "Safe Harbors" in a letter signed by BIA and co-signed by 23 state trade associations and chambers of commerce and hand-delivered to Governor and alerts media via statewide news release of the BIA/Trade Association/Chambers of Commerce efforts (May 8, 2020).
- BIA’s “Safe Harbor” working group member, James Harris, an attorney from Sheehan Phinney, outlines the importance of "Safe Harbors" in a PowerPoint presentation before the Governor’s Reopening Task Force (May 6, 2020).
- BIA takes the lead to identify House and Senate members to act as Prime Sponsors for legislative effort (May 2020).
- BIA releases draft legislative language establishing "Safe Harbors" and urges quick action by Governor Sununu, legislative leadership, The Governor's Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery (GOFERR) and members of The Governor's Economic Reopening Task Force. BIA highlights that immediate action is needed in a follow-up statewide news release (May 5, 2020).
- BIA focuses on critical need for “Safe Harbors” in BIA testimony delivered to GOFERR Legislative Advisory Board (April 22, 2020).
- BIA spearheads a working group of attorneys and business owners to draft “Safe Harbor” legislative language (April 2020).