Releasing Small Businesses With COVID-19 Cases Could Cause Financial Damage
NFIB, or the National Federation of Independent Business, which has thousands of small businesses scattered across Wisconsin, is strongly urging state and local authorities not to release the names of small businesses with reported COVID-19 cases. While we understand that there are legal requirements under the state’s open records law, NFIB is concerned with the reputational and financial damage this could cause thousands of struggling small business owners in Wisconsin.
“Now is not the time to expose Wisconsin small businesses to even more potential harm. Right now they are focused on re-opening and keeping their customers and employees safe,” said NFIB State Director in Wisconsin, Bill G. Smith. “They shouldn’t have to worry about their name being splashed across the news and the dire financial situation that could come as a result. Our small business owners are responsible. They are following safety protocols and taking the responsibility of their employee and customers’ safety seriously. There’s no way to know where a person contracted COVID-19. It is wrong to punish a small business because an employee or customer contracted the virus.”
Identifying the names of small businesses that had employees or customers who tested positive for COVID-19 gives the false impression that the employees or customers got the virus at their place of work or at a small business location – when that is impossible to know. The information could also expose small businesses to greater liability for frivolous lawsuits. Wisconsin needs to enact legislation that provides liability protection for small business – a top NFIB priority. Without that protection, providing the name of a small business with employees or customers who have tested positive for the virus is giving trial lawyers a list of victims to target, and placing the economic future of our small businesses in jeopardy. NFIB in Wisconsin has been a strong advocate for and has been pushing for liability reform here in Wisconsin.
Small business owners are already in a bad financial and economic situation. There’s no need to single out and embarrass small businesses. NFIB is also concerned that some Wisconsinites will see the list and believe it is unsafe to return to work when that small business is following CDC and state recommendations to keep their workplace safe. Right now, we need to encourage economic activity so small business owners can help get Wisconsin’s economy back on track. Here is a list of the five key principles NFIB believes Congress should enact as small business owners move into the next phase and work to recover from the coronavirus crisis.