Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.
On October 22, 2020, Governor Whitmer signed multiple bills that protect Michigan employers that are in compliance with COVID-19-related laws, including agency orders, and protect workers who do not report to work because they were exposed to, display symptoms of, or tested positive for COVID-19.
HB 6030 offers businesses and individuals that are in “compliance with all federal, state and local statutes, rules, regulations, executive orders, and agency orders related to COVID-19” immunity from any COVID-19-related claims. Immunity is not extinguished due to “isolated, de minimis deviation[s]” from compliance. COVID-19-related claims include any tort claim or cause of action related in any way to “exposure or potential exposure to COVID-19” or conduct “intended to reduce transmission of COVID-19.”
HB 6031 provides immunity to employers that are in compliance with COVID-19-related “statutes, orders, and rules and regulations, executive orders, and agency orders” from claims pursuant to Michigan’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration State Plan relating to COVID-19 exposure or illness. As with HB 6030 above, immunity from MIOSHA claims is not extinguished due to “isolated, de minimis deviation[s]” from compliance. In short, employers will be immune from claims that an employee contracted COVID-19 at the workplace, unless the employer is failing to follow COVID-19-related protection laws.
HB 6032 provides protections for workers who were exposed to, are exhibiting symptoms of, or tested positive for COVID-19. Specifically, the new law protects employees who do not report to work under the following circumstances:
- An employee who has tested positive or displays principal symptoms1 of COVID-19 shall not report to work until the following are met:
- If the employee has a fever, 24 hours since the fever has stopped without use of fever-reducing medication;
- 10 days have passed since the first symptom appeared or the date of a COVID-19 positive test result; and
- The employee’s principal symptoms of COVID-19 have improved.
- An employee who has close contact with an individual who has tested positive for or who displays the principal symptoms of COVID-19 shall not report to work until the following are met:
- 14 days have passed since the employee’s last close contact with the individual; or
- The individual with whom the employee had close contact is medically determined to not have had COVID-19 at the time of the close contact.
HB 6032 prohibits employers from retaliating against workers for complying with the above stay- at-home requirements, as well as protects workers who oppose an employer’s violation of the act or reports a health violation related to COVID-19. In fact, HB 6032 allows aggrieved workers to bring a private cause of action in circuit court for injunctive relief and money damages, and requires a court to award a plaintiff who prevails in such an action damages of not less than $5,000.
Despite the stay-at-home recommendation above, however, protection does not apply to employees displaying COVID-19 symptoms who fail to make reasonable efforts to schedule a COVID-19 test within three days after a request from their employer to get tested for COVID-19.
HB 6030, 6031, and 6032 took effect immediately and are retroactive to March 1, 2020. The landscape in Michigan continues rapidly to change and we anticipate additional legislation and orders to follow.
1 Principal symptoms are defined by order of the director or chief medical executive of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. In the event a definition is not provided, COVID-19 symptoms means one or more of the following not explained by a known medical condition: (1) fever; (2) shortness of breath; and/or (3) uncontrolled cough. In addition, two or more of the following if not explained by another condition: (1) abdominal pain; (2) diarrhea; (3) loss of taste or smell; (4) muscle aches; (5) severe headache; (6) sore throat; and/or (7) vomiting.