As COVID-19 affects communities nationwide, manufacturers are taking extraordinary steps to supply the products, including daily essentials and medical supplies, that Americans need. Unfortunately, outdated liability rules might expose these same manufacturers to litigation, creating added risk as they go above and beyond for the COVID-19 response. National Association of Manufacturers General Counsel Linda Kelly explains.
What’s the problem manufacturers face?
Our country needs manufacturers to produce food and critical goods so that most of us can shelter in place and slow the virus’ spread. Our sector has also stepped up in an unprecedented way. For example, NAM members have started to produce masks, gowns and other equipment for use on the front lines, and they didn’t wait around until they had perfect legal certainty before they acted to do the right thing. Some of our members have donated the equipment that they would use to local hospitals.
Unfortunately, even as manufacturers are making sacrifices and performing essential services, unprecedented regulatory uncertainty and rapid changes in the rules make it hard to know what actions could expose manufacturers to unfair litigation. Manufacturers always put the health and wellbeing of employees and families first. So manufacturers are stuck: they’re committed to doing the right thing, but they could also face lawsuits as a result.
What do manufacturers need to solve this problem?
America’s manufacturers need sensible liability protections for the workplace so our essential workers can continue to combat COVID-19 and help the nation move toward recovery. In an unprecedented time of national need, America’s manufacturers have stepped up to aid those on the front lines with essential equipment and materials and to maintain our way of life. And our elected officials should protect those who, without being asked, did the right thing.
What should those protections look like?
The NAM has developed a list of proposed reforms: commonsense adjustments to help ensure we have enough food on the table, equipment for our hospitals and eventually vaccines and life-saving drugs for our world.
We need protections for the workplace so critical manufacturers can continue to operate. We need to extend Good Samaritan protections to cover those who donate equipment, or who may be producing protective gear or even ventilators and more complicated medical equipment for the first time. We need to bar suits for public nuisance against critical manufacturers, as well as shareholder suits that try to “Monday-morning quarterback” decisions manufacturers have to make every day in the face of tremendous regulatory uncertainty.
Who should these reforms apply to?
These are specific, narrow reforms. They should be limited to critical businesses that operate to serve our country during the crisis, and they should apply only during the emergency and for a “wind-down” period after the declared emergency ends. We need reforms that prevent abuse of our legal system, while at the same time holding any actual bad actors accountable.
This is an unprecedented situation—and we need regulatory certainty that meets the moment.
See the NAM’s pandemic liability policy recommendations.
Washington, D.C. – Ahead of the midterm elections, the National Association of Manufacturers released its policy roadmap, “Competing to Win,” a comprehensive blueprint featuring immediate solutions for bolstering manufacturers’ competitiveness. It is also a roadmap for policymakers on the laws and regulations needed to strengthen the manufacturing industry in the months and years ahead.
With the country facing rising prices, snarled supply chains and geopolitical turmoil, manufacturers are outlining an actionable competitiveness agenda that Americans across the political spectrum can support. “Competing to Win” includes the policies manufacturers in America will need in place to continue driving the country forward.
“‘Competing to Win’ offers a path for bringing our country together around policies, shared values and a unified purpose,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. “The NAM is putting forward a plan filled with ideas that policymakers could pursue immediately, including solutions to urgent problems, such as energy security, immigration reform, supply chain disruptions, the ongoing workforce shortage and more. Manufacturers have shown incredible resilience through difficult times, employing more workers now than before the pandemic, but continued resilience is not guaranteed without the policies that are critical to the state of manufacturing in America.”
The NAM and its members will leverage “Competing to Win” to shape policy debates ahead of the midterm elections, in the remainder of the 117th Congress and at the start of the 118th Congress—including in direct engagement with lawmakers, for grassroots activity, across traditional and digital media and through events in key states and districts as we did following the initial rollout of the roadmap in 2016.
The document focuses on 12 areas of action, and all policies are rooted in the values that have made America exceptional and keep manufacturing strong: free enterprise, competitiveness, individual liberty and equal opportunity.
Learn more about how manufacturers are leading and about the industry’s competitiveness agenda at nam.org/competing-to-win.
The National Association of Manufacturers is the largest manufacturing association in the United States, representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all 50 states. Manufacturing employs more than 12.8 million men and women, contributes $2.77 trillion to the U.S. economy annually and accounts for 58% of private-sector research and development. The NAM is the powerful voice of the manufacturing community and the leading advocate for a policy agenda that helps manufacturers compete in the global economy and create jobs across the United States. For more information about the NAM or to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, please visit www.nam.org