Sotto bill protects employers from COVID-19 related lawsuits

Published July 22, 2020, 2:22 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senate President Vicente Sotto III is pushing for the enactment of a measure that would protect employers from lawsuits and claims from workers who contract COVID-19 in their workplaces.

Sen. Vicente Sotto III
(Senate of the Philippines / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Sotto recently filed Senate Bill No. 1515, or the proposed “Employer’s Liability Protection from COVID-19 Act”.  The bill proposes to give private employers immunity from coronavirus pandemic-related lawsuits from their employees who contract the dreaded virus while in the performance of their duties.
He emphasized in his proposal that he does not seek the grant of an absolute, blanket shield from liabilities. He maintained that employers must still observe work safety protocols as mandated by existing laws.

In filing the bill, however, Sotto underscored the need to boost the reopening of the economy and “to uplift the confidence of employers to open their businesses”. He said this could also be in line with the government’s policy to stimulate employment and spending.

“Small- and medium-size enterprises will greatly benefit (from) this law. This will prevent the further depletion of their already exhausted resources in defending themselves against labor lawsuits in relation to COVID-19 infection of their workers,” the Senate leader said.

Under SB 1515, no private establishments authorized by the government to operate during COVID-19 outbreak shall be liable for any claims made by employees by reason of getting infected while working.

The liability protection shall extend not only to the registered owners but also to the officers of the private establishment.

The bill also stated that the protection would cover employers who have “fully complied with the relevant laws, rules and regulations on the prevention, spread and management of COVID-19.”

This does not also apply to establishments that may be found to have involved in illegal or criminal activities.

The bill has yet to be discussed by the Senate trade, commerce and entrepreneurship committee.