COVID -19 EMPLOYMENT LAW INSIGHTS AND RESOURCES

The COVID-19 Outbreak is presenting many challenges for the Michigan workplace.  Yet the law and circumstances are changing almost daily.  We are regularly monitoring and updating workplace rights resources we have found helpful.  Additional Blanchard & Walker Resource Pages and Factsheets provide more detailed discussion on specific COVID-19 topics:

Keep in mind this is not intended to be legal advice.  Legal rights in any individual case need to be evaluated in consultation with an attorney.

UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS AND COVID-19

As of April 13, 2020, the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency has begun accepting applications for the broadest category of potential recipients under federal law reforms related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the various federal reforms, most Michigan workers who face job loss as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic should be eligible to receive unemployment benefits including a $600 per week federal supplement on top of basic benefits regularly provided by the state system. Workers defined as “self-employed” or otherwise defined as independent contractors will be newly able to claim unemployment benefits as a result of the federal disaster relief package known as the CARES Act.  And workers who have recently run out of benefit weeks will be able to re-qualify for additional benefits weeks up to 39 weeks of total benefits.

Operating under the current state of emergency and the Michigan Governor’s Executive Orders, unemployment benefits are available to individuals “considered to have left work involuntarily for medical reasons” if that individual leaves work for any of the following reasons:

  1. The individual is under self-isolation or self-quarantine in response to elevated risk from COVID-19 due to being immuno-compromised.
  2. The individual has displayed at least one of the principal symptoms of COVID-19, which are a fever, atypical cough, and atypical shortness of breath.
  3. The individual has had contact in the last 14 days with someone with a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19. Contact for the purposes of healthcare exposures is defined as follows: a) being within approximately 6 feet (2 meters) of a person with COVID-19 for a prolonged period of time, without appropriate personal protective equipment consistent with Department of Health and Human Services recommendations; or b) having unprotected direct contact with infectious secretions or excretions of the patient (e.g., being coughed on, touching used tissues with a bare hand).
  4. The individual is required to care for someone with a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19.
  5. The individual has a family care responsibility as a result of a government directive.

Benefits and eligibility criteria under the Governor’s Order are applied retroactively to March 16, 2020 under the Governor’s order.

An expanded discussion of COVID-19 Unemployment Benefits and Resources is available here.

PAID LEAVE AND COVID-19

The Families-First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) created new paid leave benefits for many workers of companies employing 500 employees or less. In certain qualifying circumstances, these benefits can be an essential lifeline to support payroll and protect return-to-work rights for workers affected by the Coronavirus Outbreak.  The US Department of Labor has many resources on FFCRA coverage,including workplace notices that covered employers are required to post.

MICHIGAN GOVERNOR COVID-19 EXECUTIVE ORDERS

Michigan Governor Whitmer has responded to the state of emergency by issuing many orders with the effect of law. Michigan Governor Whitmer maintains a COVID -19 website with regular updates. A complete list of Executive Orders Issued by Governor Whitmer is available here.  The impact of the outbreak and sheltering measures can be followed on Michigan Coronavirus Map and Case Count.

Michigan “Safe Start” Reopening: Executive Order 2020-110 and Executive Order 2020-115 address the procedures and requirements of the partial reopening of businesses in all 8 designated regions in Michigan.  The Governor’s Office has also published Frequently Asked Questions on EO 2020-110.  Re-opened workplaces remain subject to safety measures required under Executive Order 2020-114 and the Agency guidance flowing from the Order.  Any business or operation that violates the rules has failed “to provide a place of employment that is free from recognized hazards that are causing, or are likely to cause, death or serious physical harm to an employee, within the meaning of the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act, MCL 408.1011. 

Capacity Constraints and Social Distancing Procedures: Executive Order 2020-114 prescribes minimum requirements for businesses or operations that are re-opening. The Order also requires all businesses to develop a COVID-19 preparedness and response plan, designate worksite supervisors to execute the plan, and follow other safety procedures and establishes further guidance for specific industries:

* Return to Work-to-Work Resources and a complete discussion of workplace safety guidance from the Governors Office, MIOSHA, and other relevant authorities, including industry-specific reopening guidance, is available here

ADA ACCOMMODATIONS, FAMILY MEDICAL LEAVE RIGHTS AND COVID-19

Workers who are aren’t covered by the FFCRA paid leave benefits may still be legally entitled to take unpaid medical leave or seek reasonable accommodations.   According to EEOC guidance: The ADA, which protects applicants and employees from disability discrimination, is relevant to pandemic preparation in at least three major ways. First, the ADA regulates employers’ disability-related inquiries and medical examinations for all applicants and employees, including those who do not have ADA disabilities. Second, the ADA prohibits covered employers from excluding individuals with disabilities from the workplace for health or safety reasons unless they pose a “direct threat” (i.e. a significant risk of substantial harm even with reasonable accommodation). Third, the ADA requires reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities (absent undue hardship) during a pandemic.

WORKPLACE SAFETY AND COVID-19

Many Michigan workers have been asked to report to work, either because their employer has determined they are critical infrastructure or other essential employees.  These include health care workers and first responders.  For those that are out in the public during the outbreak effective workplace safety is the highest priority.   Discrimination or retaliation for raising workplace safety concerns is illegal.

A comprehensive discussion of Workplace Safety Resources with Industry Specific and Local Guidance in Michigan is available here.

HEALTHCARE SPECIFIC SAFETY AND COVID-19

OSHA has developed Interim General Guidance on Protecting Workers from COVID-19  as well as specific guidance for industry specific worker groups and their employers:

On May 3, 2020, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Safety sent Guidance to all licensed practitioners in Michigan.

Executive Order 2020-136 prescribes temporary restrictions on entry into health care facilities, residential care facilities, congregate care facilities, and juvenile justice facilities.

Executive Order 2020-123 addresses Health and Safety of Residents and Employees of Long Term Care Facilities.

COVID-19 FRAUD AND WHISTLEBLOWERS

WAGE PAYMENT LAWS AND COVID-19

Workplace disruptions related to COVID-19 are raising some questions about fair pay for work performed.  Generally speaking, employees who are laid off are still entitled to be paid for hours and days actually worked.  Asking employees to “volunteer” is usually not allowed. Time spent passing medical clearance checks at work may be compensable.

MICHIGAN EDUCATION AND COVID-19

Public School and Higher Education have been closed for the 2019-2020 academic year.  On June 30, 2020 the Governor released Executive Order 2020-142, detailing the plans for preK-12 public schools to reopen for the 2020-2021 school year. Michigan Department of Education Resources are available here.

IMMIGRANT RIGHTS AND COVID-19

WORKERS COMPENSATION AND COVID-19

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND COVID-19

MORE COVID-19 RESOURCES