Nevada Legislature Approves COVID-19 Liability For Most Businesses

Aug 6, 2020

A contentious bill meant to provide businesses and some government agencies immunity from COVID-19-related death and injury suits is now on it’s way to Governor Steve Sisolak.

Lawmakers worked into the early hours this morning to approve SB4. 

The bill grants businesses that follow local COVID-19-specific health guidelines immunity from COVID-19-related suits. The measure also offers some workplace protections including paid sick leave for employees experiencing COVID-19-like symptoms or if they were exposed to the virus.

Written almost exclusively with the state’s tourism industry in mind, the measure greatly favors gaming, in particular, both resorts and hospitality workers. Lawmakers, though, say the measure will help keep the state moving through the economic crisis.

“What you’ve seen in Senate Bill 4 is an effort to ensure some stability, some reliability and to afford some protections under that law, specifically the worker protection piece. We want to make sure this state is on the path to recovery,” said Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro.

Despite passing with wide bipartisan support, the measure faced significant opposition. One of the most contentious aspects of the bill dealt with exempting hospitals from litigation immunity.

During a presentation on the bill, officials with the governor’s office explained protections already existed for hospitals under Governor Sisolak’s April 1st emergency directive.

Opponents of the move say it puts the state’s healthcare system at risk of being exploited.

“While I believe we’ve made some great strides, we’re not there yet,” said Republican Assemblywoman Alexis Hansen. “To leave our hospitals exposed when they’ve been on the front lines, to leave our school districts exposed and other workers in rural communities, in my opinion, we’re just not there yet and Nevada can do better.”

Another concern for some lawmakers was an exemption for schools as well.

Over the course of public comment, teachers unions and advocates voiced opposition saying the worker protections in the bill didn’t do enough to cover all workers in the state, leaving others outside the hospitality industry

Speaking in support of the bill, Democratic Senator Julia Ratti said the measure isn’t perfect, but it is needed.

“Where I’m going to land on this is, without the liability protection, maybe that does put our schools in the position of having to think just a little bit harder about the safety standards they’re providing,” said Democratic Senator Julia Ratti, who voted for the bill.

The bill will now head to the governor who is expected to sign it into law.