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Publications | March 15, 2022
2 minute read

New MDHHS Quarantine Guidance Creates Uncertainty for Employers Under Public Act 238/339

Last Friday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) announced that the state of Michigan is entering a “post-surge recovery phase” where no immediate resurgence in COVID-19 cases is predicted. As a result, MDHHS updated its COVID-19 Isolation and Quarantine Recommendations (“MDHHS Recommendations”), found here. These MDHHS Recommendations do not apply to healthcare, long-term care, corrections and other high-risk settings.

The MDHHS Recommendations concerning isolation are generally consistent with the CDC’s existing guidance for individuals who display symptoms of or are confirmed to have COVID-19. The MDHHS Recommendations on quarantining for COVID-19 exposure, however, are much less restrictive than the CDC’s current quarantine guidance. Unlike existing CDC guidance, which generally recommends that an exposed individual quarantine if they are not up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccinations, the MDHHS Recommendations state that an individual who is exposed to COVID-19 need not quarantine for any period following their exposure as long as they follow other mitigation measures (e.g., self-monitoring for symptoms, wearing a mask for 10 days, etc.). The only exception is for individuals who are exposed to COVID-19 via a personal/household contact and are “unable or unwilling to mask” for 10 days following their last date of exposure.

As a reminder, Public Act 238/339 (the “Act”) requires Michigan employers to allow employees to isolate or quarantine for various COVID‑19-related situations without discipline, discharge or retaliation. On its face, nothing in the Act expressly incorporates by reference the MDHHS Recommendations. The Act only incorporates the CDC’s isolation and quarantine guidance, which do not incorporate by reference state or local health department recommendations regarding COVID-19. Instead, the CDC guidelines only defer to “federal, state, local, territorial or tribal health and safety laws, rules and regulations.” That said, the Act provides that an exposed employee can return to work if the employee is “advised by a health care provider or public health professional that they have completed their period of quarantine” (emphasis added). Accordingly, if its local health department has adopted the MDHHS Recommendations, an employer may be able to rely on such adoption as the health department’s advice as to quarantining for purposes of Public Act 238/339.

Employers should confirm whether their local health department has adopted the MDHHS Recommendations and continue to exercise caution before taking adverse employment action against an exposed employee who wants to comply with the CDC’s more stringent quarantine guidance. As always, the attorneys in Warner’s Labor and Employment Practice Group are available to answer your specific questions.