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House GOP bill would block lawsuits by workers sickened with virus 

A forthcoming House GOP bill would bar workers who fall ill with coronavirus from suing their employers, so long as the company complies with state and federal law as it reopens for business amid loosening health restrictions.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mike TurnerMichael Ray TurnerDemocratic lawmakers lambast Trump over Esper firing as GOP remains mum Overnight Defense: How members of the Armed Services committees fared in Tuesday's elections | Military ballots among those uncounted in too-close-to-call presidential race | Ninth US service member killed by COVID-19 Turner fends off Democratic challenge in Ohio MORE (R-Ohio), said legislation he will introduce this week would give complying business immunity from civil suits brought by employees who contract coronavirus after returning to the workplace.

“Many businesses are concerned about reopening due to the risk associated with being held liable if one of their employees contracts coronavirus after coming back to work,” Turner said in a statement. “This bill is proactive and seeks to protect complying businesses and employees as we begin to restart the economy.”

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The issue of legal protections for companies has emerged as a politically divisive debate that has led to intense lobbying as Congress considers more legislation to revive the faltering economy.

Top Republican lawmakers, the Trump administration and the U.S. business community are strongly in favor, while Democrats, labor unions and trial attorneys have voiced fierce opposition to a liability shield for employers. 

Democrats previously agreed to limit the legal liability of manufacturers of certain protective equipment in an earlier coronavirus relief package. But Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGovernors take heat for violating their own coronavirus restrictions Spending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerUS national security policy in the 117th Congress and a new administration Voters say Biden should make coronavirus vaccine a priority: poll New York City subway service could be slashed 40 percent, officials warn MORE (D-N.Y.) have since pushed back on additional measures, saying they could leave workers vulnerable.

“At the time of this coronavirus challenge, especially now, we have every reason to protect our workers and our patients in all of this,” Pelosi said last Wednesday. “So we would not be inclined to be supporting any immunity from liability.”

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHarris says she has 'not yet' spoken to Pence Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Feinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight MORE (R-Ky.) has said the Republican-led Senate won’t provide additional state and local government funding without additional legal protections.

It’s unclear how Turner’s bill would affect state tort laws, which provide remedies for civil wrongs and injuries. While Congress could in theory override state laws to offer a nationwide safe harbor from liability, analysts say such assurances would almost certainly fail to pass Congress.

Turner’s proposal would also give employees the option to quit jobs they deemed unsafe while remaining eligible for unemployment benefits.