The Nevada State Legislature wrapped up its second special session this summer by passing a new bill that protects many businesses from COVID-19-related lawsuits. School districts, hospitals, and other health-care facilities remain exempt from the new legislation that gives liability protections to nearly all businesses, governments, and nonprofit groups that follow required local, state, and federal health protocols for conducting business during the coronavirus pandemic.
The bill prevents customers from filing a lawsuit if they contract COVID-19 while at the business. Customers can still file a lawsuit, but if the business, such as a casino, restaurant, or bar, is enforcing mandatory masks, maintaining six feet of social distancing, and only filling the space at 50 percent capacity, the plaintiff will have a higher burden to prove negligence.
The hospitality industry at casinos also received new protections through Senate Bill-4, dubbed Adolfo Fernandez Bill, named for a utility porter at Caesars Palace who contracted COVID-19 after he returned to work in early June and died later that month.
“Senate Bill 4 is a first-in-the-nation legislation that will protect all workers in the hospitality industry in Las Vegas and Reno — wall-to-wall, front-of-the-house and back-of-the-house, union and non-union, worker and manager — from the Bellagio to Motel 6,” Geoconda Argüello-Kline, secretary-treasurer of the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165, says in a press statement.
Hotels and casinos will have to implement enhanced cleaning procedures such as daily room cleaning. Social distancing must be maintained. Workers going back to the job or who have been exposed to COVID-19 receive free testing and paid time off up to 10 days while quarantining or waiting for COVID-19 test results.
The legislation also mandates temperature checks for employees at the workplace, safety training for all employees, and detailed plans of action for when a worker contracts COVID-19 or is exposed to someone with the virus.
Local and state health officials must regularly inspect resort hotels every two months for compliance with health standards, and for hotels with more than 200 rooms, inspections will take place every three months.
“The worker provisions in the Senate Bill 4 are the result of five months of the culinary union having thousands of one-on-one conversations with workers, two different car caravans on the Las Vegas Strip with over 10,000 Nevadans participating, dozens of public comments before the Nevada Gaming Control Board and Gaming Commission, and drafting, researching, and consulting with experts on the health and safety language in the bill,” Argüello-Kline says.
The legislation appropriates $2 million to the Southern Nevada Health District through the end of the year for inspections.
The assembly voted 31-10 to approve the bill, while the state senate approved the bill by a 16-5 vote earlier on Wednesday.
This marks the 32nd special session in Nevada’s history, and Gov. Steve Sisolak says he intends to sign SB-4 into law.
Since March 1, 32 culinary and bartenders union members or someone in their immediate families died due to complications of COVID-19, with more than 300 hospitalized due to COVID-19.
Since June 4, when casinos were allowed to reopen, the number of COVID-19-related hospitalizations among culinary and bartenders union members or their immediate family members has increased 1,380 percent, from five patients hospitalized because of COVID-19 on June 4 to 69 hospitalized COVID-19 patients on July 29.