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A business run like the White House would be in trouble

President Trump returned to the White House on Monday evening after his stay in Walter Reed Hospital. More than 30 White House staff have also tested positive for coronavirus. Yahoo Finance’s Rick Newman joins The Final Round to discuss why if the White House was a regular business it would be facing many more legal issues than it is now.

Video Transcript

SEANA SMITH: Well, the outbreak inside the White House calling into question the administration's safety protocols, or lack thereof, I guess I should say. The guidelines from the CDC call for businesses to safely protect their employees by social distancing, by wearing a mask, amongst other things.

So Rick, the question here is, if the White House were operating like a business, I mean, how much trouble could it potentially be in, just in terms of the lack of safety protocols or safety measures that they have taken to protect some of the employees inside the White House?

RICK NEWMAN: If the White House were a normal business, it could be facing a lot of legal liability related to employees and visitors or third parties both. I mean, in a business, they would be customers. But there have been many third party visitors to the White House, including some who went to that celebration for the Supreme Court justice on September 26th that did subsequently come down with the COVID infection.

So it's worth pointing out, every business around the White House has to abide by rules issued by Washington, DC that say you have to wear a mask if you're a worker or a customer inside a business. There has to be a safety plan. You do have to make it possible for people to safely distance inside the business. And all the normal businesses in DC, either they operate like that, or they don't operate. And if you flout those rules as a normal business, you're susceptible to lawsuits.

The White House does not have to abide by those by local or even state regulations, wherever there is a federal agency. The way it works for the White House is, they're supposed to abide by rules set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA. But Trump's OSHA has set no rules for what government has to do or businesses, for that matter, to keep people safe from COVID.

So because of these wrinkles, if you are an employee of the White House who gets sick, you do not have very much legal recourse the way you would in a normal business.

SEANA SMITH: Rick, going through your piece, I know you mentioned a worker's compensation claim, but it sounds like from what you were saying, just in terms of the employees inside the White House, that wouldn't help much in this situation.

RICK NEWMAN: Right, so what usually happens with employees when they either get hurt or they get sick on the job, is, the first thing they do is file a worker's compensation claim. And it's typical that all businesses pay into what's basically an insurance fund, which then takes care of the worker.

The catch with that-- and some worker advocates say this is really not fear, because if you-- first of all, worker's compensation doesn't pay that much. And in some cases, it actually makes it harder to file a lawsuit.

But you can. I mean, and again, if we're talking about normal businesses that have to play by the rules, you can file a worker's comp claim. And then if you feel that you still have suffered damages that go beyond what that claim reimbursed you for, then you can file a lawsuit.

It just gets-- it's a lot harder when it's the government because there are some rules in place that don't make it impossible to sue the government, but make it a lot harder. So it looks as if the way Trump runs the White House with really no protections, institutionalized at any rate, to protect workers, they can-- it looks like they can get away with it.

SEANA SMITH: Well, it's pretty simple. They should just reinstate the mask wearing and also enforce social distancing.

RICK NEWMAN: Well, we all know where Trump stands on that.

SEANA SMITH: I know. And then we wouldn't be in this situation, but we could talk about that all day.

RICK NEWMAN: Trump is the worst mask shunner in the world.

SEANA SMITH: That's true.