Enfantino: Lawsuits related to COVID-19 are next threat to small business
According to Spectrum Location Solutions, between 2008 and 2019, 18,000 companies left California for more business-friendly states. Photo by Kaique Rocha from Pexels.

As the Business San Jose Chamber PAC continues to advocate for the safe reopening of our local economy, let’s not forget the challenges that have existed for years for our local business owners: abusive lawsuits.

Our community needs protection against what could be a wave of COVID-19 lawsuits aimed at shaking down mom-and-pop businesses, and on top of the ongoing threat of Private Attorneys General Act lawsuits (PAGA).

October is Lawsuit Abuse Awareness month so it is a great opportunity to place the spotlight on this critical issue, as San José Spotlight has done before regarding abusive Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuits, and to call on the legislature and governor to support small business and protect them from abusive lawsuits that shakedown our local businesses.

The governor and the California legislature seem to be out of touch with the business community. Small business owners up and down the state are considering leaving the state (and many have already) for greener pastures because of the complexity of operating a business in California.

According to Spectrum Location Solutions, between 2008 and 2019, 18,000 companies left California for more business-friendly states.

Santa Clara County business owners already are the target of lawsuits, some in the form of ADA complaints, others related to the abuse of Prop 65. In most of these cases, no one is willfully harmed, yet companies and mom-and-pop businesses pay thousands of dollars because of minor technical violations that the small business owner could have cured.

Now, San Jose businesses could face COVID-19 related lawsuits while in this very uncertain COVID-19 climate. They are already trying to create victimless lawsuits, where people sue because they think they may have been exposed to COVID-19 even when they do not become infected.

Business owners want to be safe and deserve certainty of liability protection. Owners likewise want safety for their employees and customers. But they also want and appreciate certainty that a lawsuit, in this time of crisis, won’t drive them to bankruptcy.

The governor and legislature need to keep in mind there are more than 3.9 million small businesses in California, including 1.6 million that are minority-owned. Together, they employ 7 million people.

Unwarranted lawsuits stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and the Private Attorneys General Act will financially ruin small businesses in California. And the hope of sustaining our livelihoods during and after this pandemic will be buried forever unless our leaders take a stand for those who employ so many.

Tracey Enfantino is with the Business San Jose Chamber PAC.

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