White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said businesses should not be held liable for workers who contract the coronavirus while on the job, backing earlier comments made this week by President Donald Trump.
“You’ve got to give the businesses some confidence here that if something happens, and it may not be their fault — the disease is an infectious disease — if something happens, you can’t take them out of business. You can’t throw big lawsuits against them,” he told CNBC Wednesday.
Trump, at a White House press briefing on Monday, argued against allowing such legal protections for workers because it would weaken companies’ performance.
“We just don’t want that because we want the companies to open and to open strong,” he told reporters.
Instead of allowing private legal action, Kudlow said it should be the responsibility of states and cities to ensure safety standards.
“There will be constant monitoring, state by state,” he said. “I think the states do a good job.”
States have enacted stay-at-home orders for nonessential workers across the country in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, though there have been reports of unsafe working conditions, little to no sick leave, as well as employees being forced to commute into work even if they are nonessential or they are able to perform their jobs remotely.
Retail giant Walmart, which has kept all of its stores open amid the pandemic, was sued earlier this month by the family of one of two workers ― both from the same Illinois store ― who contracted COVID-19 and died. That man’s family has accused the company of failing to adequately screen and protect workers or follow federal health safety guidelines.
Charter Communications, which offers telecommunication services across the country under the name Spectrum, has also been accused of unnecessarily forcing workers at corporate offices and call centers to come into office against local stay-at-home orders.
More than 230 of the company’s employees ― roughly half of whom work in offices or call centers ― have since gotten sick from the virus and one employee has died, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
Charter has not denied this report and in a statement to HuffPost on Tuesday a spokesperson said that “the significant majority” of its office workers are working remotely.
Kudlow, as Trump’s top economic adviser, has repeatedly put the economy over public safety, with him last month urging social distancing guidelines to be eased for the good of the economy.
“At some point, you have to ask yourself whether the shutdown is doing more harm than good,” he said on CNBC.
This advice followed him calling the coronavirus “contained, pretty close to airtight” back in February — an assessment he has since retracted.
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