Business Travel Industry Lobbies for Liability Protections

The business travel industry is seeking protections from legal liability in the event employees or customers contract COVID-19.

According to a report in Business Travel News, several associations and organizations are lobbying Congress for a waiver, which they say will help travel suppliers stay in business and make it easier for corporations to allow employees to travel again.

A variety of associations, including the U.S. Travel Association, ASTA and GBTA, as well as associations from different industries, penned a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer supporting Congress’ efforts to “create a targeted and limited safe harbor from liability for companies that implement federal public health guidelines related to the transmission of COVID-19.”

Another letter was sent to Congress requesting temporary liability protections for businesses, educational institutions and non-profits that follow applicable public health guidelines concerning COVID-19. This letter was signed by a number of travel associations, including ASTA, the U.S. Travel Association and more.

“The general idea in the letters is to provide a temporary liability shield for businesses that follow the applicable federal, state, local and [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines,” said American Society of Travel Advisors executive Vice President of advocacy Eben Peck. “We’re thinking of scenarios like, a traveler goes on the road for work, gets sick and possibly dies, company is sued. Same scenario, [travel management company] is sued. TMC helps to organize a large gathering or trade show, TMCs are sued.”

One of the fears many companies have is that they could face liability if an employee or customer gets sick with COVID-19. This fear could slow down the industry’s recovery.

Remington Gregg, counsel for civil justice and consumer rights for consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, doesn’t believe that these protections are necessary, telling BTN that “it is difficult [for a plaintiff] right now without any business immunity to prevail in court for contracting Covid. Why? Because you have to show a direct causal link between a business’s action and you catching it.”

In May, the Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings on whether or not the next round of coronavirus relief should include liability issues, debating the ramifications of granting “safe harbor” protections to employers.

Republicans and Democrats on the committee agreed that the federal government should protect workers, but republican members also maintained that liability protections were necessary to alleviate litigation concerns.

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