On Tuesday, the House Labor, Veterans’ and Military Affairs Committee is set to consider a bill, H.B. 268, which will enact “presumed liability” on businesses for employees’ contraction of COVID-19. The bill is sponsored by Reps. Dayan Hochman-Vigil (D-Bernalillo) and Christine Chandler (D-Los Alamos, Rio Arriba, Sandoval, and Santa Fe).
According to the New Mexico Business Coalition, “the employee would not be required to prove that they were actually exposed to Covid-19 at work.”
The bill reads, “If an essential employee is diagnosed with coronavirus disease 2019 caused by the novel coronavirus, and the essential employee has established that the employer has not strictly complied with the then existent public health orders related to the coronavirus disease 2019, the condition is presumed to be: (1) an accidental injury arising out of and in the course of employment; (2) reasonably incident to and proximately caused by employment; and (3) a disability that is a natural and direct result of the accident.”
The business would be forced to go to court to dispute the claim that the essential employee contracted COVID-19 during work. The bill reads, “The presumptions created in Subsection B of this section may be rebutted by a preponderance of evidence in a court of competent jurisdiction establishing that the employee engaged in conduct or activities outside of employment that substantially violated the then existent public health orders related to the coronavirus disease 2019.”
The New Mexico Business Coalition urges members of the public to reach out to legislators on the committee and urge them to vote “NO” on the measure “because it is unfair and injurious to businesses that have been working to keep the economy going during forced shutdowns.”
Members of the Committee can be reached by clicking here.
UPDATE: On February 18, the House Labor, Veterans’ and Military Affairs Committee passed the bill on a partisan vote of 5-3. It now moves forward to its next committee.