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Business, restaurant groups join lawsuit

Posted at 4 p.m. on Friday, November 6, 2020

The Brillion News

WAUKESHA - The National Federation of Independent Business, the Wisconsin Restaurant Association and the Restaurant Law Center have jointly filed a "friend of the court" ("amicus curiae") in the case of of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce v. Tony Evers.

That suit seeks to bar the state from naming businesses what have had employees test positive for COVID-19.

The suit maintains that releasing that information would violate privacy laws.

The brief, filed with the Waukesha County Circuit Court on Wednesday, November 4, asks this question: "May a Governor ignore privacy laws and release the confidential health information of an employer's employees under the guise of that information being subject to open records requests?"

The Wisconsin Restaurant Association represents 7,000 restaurants and other food service businesses in the state.

"After flip-flopping on his authority to release the names of businesses that have had employees test positive for COVID-19 and the number of employees who have tested positive, Governor Evers now plans to publish this information in response to public record requests," the brief said.

The brief says that the release of such information will do nothing to stop the spread of the virus, but will hurt businesses and will "simply instill fear in consumers and cause them to second-guess or forego patronizing these establishments ..." and result in the businesses losing revenue and being permanently harmed, along with stigmatizing the restaurants and damaging their reputations.

“Allowing Wisconsin’s Governor to bypass federal and state privacy laws will detrimentally and permanently impact small businesses throughout the State of Wisconsin,” said Karen Harned, NFIB Small Business Legal Center’s Executive Director. “What the Administration’s plan to release months-old positive test results and the businesses names of employees testing positive will do, instead of slowing the spread of COVID-19, is detrimentally, permanently, and irreparably, impact the financial stability and existence of businesses in Wisconsin.”

The brief asks the court "to issue an immediate temporary injunction" to block the release of any such information.

"Instead of preventing the spread of COVID-19 and helping businesses through these hard times, [the state's] proposed activity will further alienate customers and irreparably damage the outlook for businesses branded as COVID-19 positive businesses," the brief said.


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