In 2020, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed three bills into law detailing COVID-19-related rights and protections for Michigan businesses, workers and employers. Yesterday, she signed three new bills that roll back these rights and protections.
In October 2020, Governor Whitmer signed off on Public Acts (PA) 236, 237 and 238. PA 236 protects individuals and entities from liability for any COVID-19 claims if the person or organization complied with all regulations and orders related to COVID-19. PA 237 provides similar protection for employers if the employer complied with all COVID-19-related regulations and orders. Lastly, PA 238 establishes legal requirements for when employees must stay home from work due to COVID-19 (including if they test positive for COVID-19, display symptoms or have been in close contact with someone else who tested positive). It also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who stay home consistent with these requirements. It empowers employees to bring lawsuits against employers who fail to comply. In December 2020, the governor and the legislature amended PA 238 with PA 339, which incorporated changing isolation and quarantine guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In late June, the Michigan legislature passed legislation which would roll back the protections in PA 236, 237 and 238/339. On July 11, Governor Whitmer signed them into law.
House Bill 6215 amends PA 236 and eliminates liability protection against COVID-19 claims for people and organizations for any claims accruing after July 1, 2022.
Similarly, House Bill 6128 amends PA 237 by removing employers’ legal immunity from any lawsuits if an employee’s exposure to COVID-19 occurs after July 1, 2022.
Finally, House Bill 5244 amends PA 238/339 and provides that those acts do not apply to any claim or cause of action from employees accruing after July 1, 2022.
Although House Bill 5244 eliminates employee causes of action under PA 238/339, Michigan employers should still consider what internal policies they should implement and maintain to minimize the risk of COVID-19 in the workplace. This might include requiring employees with symptoms to stay away from work pending a negative test and requiring employees with COVID-19 to stay away for the periods prescribed by the CDC, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services or their local health department. Employers must also remain cognizant of other laws related to workplace safety and/or employee leave entitlements, such as the MIOSHA Act, the Michigan Paid Medical Leave Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, when making decisions regarding employee absences related to COVID-19. Health care employers should also be mindful that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is still working on a permanent rule related to occupational exposure to COVID-19 in health care settings to replace the Emergency Temporary Standard it adopted in June 2021.
These bills are the latest developments in COVID-19 legislation impacting Michigan employers. If you have any questions regarding this new legislation or other employment issues surrounding COVID‑19, please contact any member of Warner’s Labor and Employment Practice Group.