COVID-19: 5 States Grant Businesses Immunity from Liability for COVID-19 Claims

On the heels of rolling executive orders from Governors across the country granting civil immunity to healthcare organizations and workers during the COVID-19 crisis, States are now moving to protect businesses as well.

As of June 19, 2020, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming have enacted laws that grant businesses immunity from civil lawsuits related to the coronavirus.  Businesses that remained open during the crisis and those now beginning to reopen welcome the immunity protections.  Worker and consumer advocates decry the legislative developments, calling them an unfair limitation on legal recourse.

You can read the rest of my blog here. Congressional action to give businesses federal immunity for COVID-19 claims is currently under debate. More states also continue to grant state-level protections.

Californians to Vote on Privacy Law Tweaks and Expansion in November 2020

Last week, California’s Secretary of State announced that the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) that will be on November 2020 ballot. The Californian’s for Consumer Privacy which brought forth the groundbreaking California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) that is now the law of the land, wants to push protections farther.

The group tells Californians that the CPRA “will give you the power to take back control over your personal information, expand consumer rights, create more transparency and establish an enforcement arm to protect these rights.” With ACLU polls showing 90% of California voters want more privacy protections, the state is once again poised to lead the nation in privacy law advances.

The CA Secretary of State summarizes the proposed CPRA as follows:

AMENDS CONSUMER PRIVACY LAWS. INITIATIVE STATUTE

  • (1) prevent businesses from sharing personal information; (2) correct inaccurate personal information; and (3) limit businesses’ use of “sensitive personal information”—such as precise geolocation; race; ethnicity; religion; genetic data; union membership; private communications; and certain sexual orientation, health, and biometric information.
  • Changes criteria for which businesses must comply with these laws.
  • Prohibits businesses’ retention of personal information for longer than reasonably necessary.
  • Triples maximum penalties for violations concerning consumers under age 16.
  • Establishes California Privacy Protection Agency to enforce and implement consumer privacy laws, and impose administrative fines.
  • Requires adoption of substantive regulations.”

    The Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance assessment indicates:
  • “Increased annual state costs of roughly $10 million for a new state agency to monitor compliance and enforcement of consumer privacy laws.
  • Increased state costs, potentially reaching the low millions of dollars annually, from increased workload to DOJ and the state courts, some or all of which would be offset by penalty revenues.
  • Unknown impact on state and local tax revenues due to economic effects resulting from new requirements on businesses to protect consumer information. (19-0021A1.)”

(bullets added for readability)

My recent overview of the CCPA — before any changes from a successful ballot measure — can be found here.

Implications on Workplace Safety Litigation in the Wake of Dismissed Claims Against Smithfield Foods

I recently wrote an article on the dismissal of a COVID-19 lawsuit that could have far reaching effects on future workplace safety cases. A U.S. district court judge in Missouri ruled that federal agencies — not courts — are in the best position to determine if companies are complying with COVID-19 worker safety standards.

A U.S. district judge in Missouri recently dismissed a worker’s protection lawsuit filed by the Rural Community Workers Alliance. The suit alleged that Smithfield Foods, Inc, the world’s largest pork producer, failed to provide adequate workplace safety in its Milan, Missouri plant. In his opinion, Judge Greg Kays signaled that federal agencies are better suited to determine whether Smithfield’s meatpacking facility complies with relevant federal standards on health protections for workers during the COVID-19 crisis.

Read the rest here.

Tectonic Change Coming to Legal Talent Market

New market entrants, thriving lateral and in-house mobility, and legal services segmentation are changing legal talent market dynamics. Burgeoning Big Four legal units and large alternative legal service providers are siphoning talent from law firms. Career options are snowballing for new and seasoned lawyers. As these trends play out, tectonic change is coming to the legal talent market. Read more in my article published by The American Lawyer.

Happy Data Privacy Day, 2019!

Citizen-consumer personal, private data whizzes across the internet at lightening speed in 2019. Housed in countless servers across the globe, our data is, well, constantly at risk of falling into the wrong hands. Each year, we spotlight the importance of safeguarding personal data with Data Privacy Day.

Started in Europe in 2006, now 30 countries celebrate Data Privacy Day every year. So what happened over the last year to improve the safety of private data? Check out this summary of data privacy law highlights from 2018.

EU Tax Man Cometh for Apple

The EU tax man is catching up with Apple. On Friday Apple put $1.76 billion into a tax escrow to comply with the 2016 EU order that Ireland reclaim back taxes  from Apple. Two years ago the EU Commission ruled that Ireland’s tax arrangements with Apple amounted to state aid, violating EU competition law.  While Apple and Dublin are challenging the ruling, they were forced to establish and start funding an escrow account for the $16 billion in back taxes and interest.

Over the years many EU countries — prominently Ireland, the Netherlands and Luxembourg  — have encouraged US companies to set up offshoots in their countries with very favorable tax incentives.  In Europe, these tax schemes were dubbed “double Irish” or “Dutch sandwich” in the 1980s. The tax strategies were a way for some EU countries to grow their economies and employment ranks with local big foreign brand operations. Today, Apple employs around 5,000 people in its Cork facility.

Under similar EU rulings Starbucks paid back taxes to the Netherlands, while Amazon and Fiat paid Luxembourg tax authorities.

In recent years, Margrethe Vestager, EU Competition Commissioner, has stepped up investigations of behemoth US tech companies for various competition transgressions.  EU countries who now rely on US and other international companies for significant employment and tax revenues worry about the ramifications of the zealous commissioner. Other EU nations applaud the actions they see as long overdue.Margrethe Vestager

Marketers Shift Away from Campaign-based Thinking

“What has been interesting for us has been to see the gradual change amongst marketers who are only now starting to recognize the need to shift away from campaign-based thinking to a more comprehensive mindset for content and customer engagement,” says Jamie Posnanski of Accenture. Read more on 2018 content marketing trends here .  Chimp Tools
Is your marketing strategy evolving towards content and customer engagement?