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New law gives businesses limited protections from lawsuits during emergencies

Senior Editor Top Stories
Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez

Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez

Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed a bill that gives businesses limited protections from lawsuits, but only during a declared state of emergency.

SB 542 by Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez, R-Doral, is titled “Evidentiary Standards for Actions Arising During an Emergency.”

Rep. Lauren Melo, R-Naples, sponsored the companion, HB 411.

The legislation protects businesses that supply temporary or gig workers with such things as protective equipment, safety training, medical or cleaning supplies, or “any action related to health and safety.”

Under the legislation, those actions taken by a business during a declared emergency could not be used by an “engaged individual” as evidence that an employer-employee relationship existed.

It defines “engaged individual” as “an individual who provides a good or service to a business or on behalf of a business and who is remunerated for the good or service, regardless of the individual’s classification as an employee or independent contractor.”

The measure applies to workplace actions related to workers’ compensation, retaliatory personnel actions, labor pool violations, devices used in payment for labor, and unclaimed wages.

Additionally, it applies to civil actions to recover lost wages, salary, employment benefits, or other compensation.

“When a business hires an individual, it is important that the person be correctly classified as either an independent contractor or an employee because tax and labor laws apply differently to each classification,” according to a staff analysis.

The House approved the measure 115-2 on March 2. The Senate voted 39-0 to give it final legislative approval on March 8.

The bill takes effect July 1.

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