On October 22, 2020, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed into law several recently passed bills that establish workplace protections and extend unemployment benefits for Michigan workers related to COVID-19. Businesses in the state also have new protections from lawsuits arising from exposure to the virus. The new laws represent a legislative response to the Michigan Supreme Court striking down Gov. Whitmer’s Executive Orders on COVID-19 in early October.
2020 PA 238: Protection From Discharge or Retaliation for COVID Infection
This law establishes standards for when workers should not report to work because of COVID-19 and protects workers from discharge and retaliation if they follow those standards. Specifically:
- An employee who tests positive for COVID-19 or displays the principal symptoms of COVID-19 shall not report to work until they meet the following conditions:
- If the employee has a fever, 24 hours have passed since the fever has stopped without fever-reducing medications.
- Ten days have passed since the date the employee’s symptoms first appeared, the employee received the test that yielded a positive result for COVID-19, or the employee’s principal symptoms of COVID-19 have improved.
- Similarly, an employee who has close contact with an individual who tests positive for COVID-19 or with an individual who displays the principal symptoms of COVID-19 shall not report to work until either:
- Fourteen days have passed since the employee last had close contact with the individual, or
- The individual with whom the employee had close contact receives a medical determination that they did not have COVID-19 at the time of the close contact with the employee.
- With certain exceptions relating to first responders and healthcare workers, employers cannot discharge, discipline, or otherwise retaliate against an employee who complies with the stay-home provisions set forth above, opposes a violation of this act, or reports health violations related to COVID-19.
- Employees have a private right of action for violations of the act with minimum damages of $5,000.
2020 PA 236 and 2020 PA 237: Immunity for Businesses That Follow COVID Rules
These two laws establish immunity for Michigan business owners from COVID-related liability if they comply with all applicable health and safety COVID standards. Specifically, a person (including a business entity) who complies with all federal, state, and local statutes, rules, regulations, executive orders, and agency orders related to COVID-19 that had not been denied legal effect at the time of the conduct or risk that allegedly caused harm is not liable for a COVID-19 claim.
Business owners will not lose their immunity for isolated, de minimis deviations unrelated to the plaintiff’s injuries.
2020 PA 237 mirrors the protections in 2020 PA 236 and relates to employees’ claims for COVID-19 exposure in the workplace.
2020 PA 229: Extension of Unemployment Benefits
Picking up where Executive Order 2020-76 left off, this law extends unemployment benefits for Michigan workers from 20 weeks to 26 weeks. Combined with federal unemployment programs, this effectively means that unemployed works remain eligible for up to 59 weeks of unemployment benefits.
Call Kreis Enderle With Questions About COVID-19 Safety Requirements
We know this is an unprecedented time for employees and business owners. Kreis Enderle remains steadfastly committed to providing guidance, counsel, and advocacy to help our clients weather the storm.
If you have questions regarding these latest COVID laws or any other aspects of how the pandemic impacts you, please contact the Business Law and Employment Law Practice Groups at Kreis Enderle today.