16 May Michigan COVID-19 Law Update
Michigan has made several significant employment-related changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Protected COVID-19 Leave
First, employers in Michigan are prohibited from discharging, disciplining, or otherwise retaliating against an employee for taking time off work for any of the following reasons:
- The employee tested positive for COVID-19;
- They have a fever, atypical cough, or atypical shortness of breath;
- They have had “close contact” with someone else who tests positive for COVID-19 or have a fever, atypical cough, or atypical shortness of breath. (“Close contact” means being within six feet of someone for a prolonged period of time.)
For reasons #1 and 2, the employee’s protected leave ends when they receive a negative test. Otherwise, the length of the protected leave is until the later of either 3 days after their symptoms ended or 7 days after their first symptom appeared or they tested positive. For reason #3, the employee’s protected leave ends until either 14 days have passed since their close contact or the person with symptoms receives a negative COVID-19 test result. The state released an infographic to illustrate the timelines, available here.
Employers may not discharge, discipline, or retaliate against an employee for failing to provide documentation that the employee or someone they had close contact with has a symptom of COVID-19.
Employers may discharge or discipline an employee if any of the following apply:
- The employee fails to return to work once they no longer qualify for leave,
- The employee voluntarily consents, or
- The reason for the discharge or discipline is unrelated to their protected leave.
The following employees are not entitled to protected leave for reason #3, unless the employer’s rules regarding occupational health prohibit them from reporting to work:
- Healthcare professionals
- Workers at a healthcare facility (as defined in the executive order)
- First responders (e.g., police officers, fire fighters, paramedics)
- Child protective service employees
- Workers at childcaring institutions (as defined in section 1 of Public Act 116 of 1973, MCL 722.111)
- Workers at correctional facilities
These protections took effect immediately and continue until the end of the declared states of emergency and disaster.
Temporary Sick Leave Expansion
Second, employers are required to treat the leave the same as if the employee were taking leave under Michigan’s sick-leave law, the Paid Medical Leave Act, even if the employer has fewer than 50 employees or the employee has exhausted their sick leave. If the employee has no paid leave available, the time off can be unpaid.
As with COVID leave, this temporary sick leave expansion became effective immediately and continues until the end of the declared states of emergency and disaster.
MI Safe Start Plan
Under each phase of the Michigan Safe Start plan, the state has certain safety requirements for workplaces. Generally, employers who have employees working together in person must have a COVID-19 preparedness and response plan consistent with OSHA guidance available here and provide on-site employees with non-medical grade face coverings. The MI Safe Start plan is available here, and Michigan’s executive orders are all available here. Although the MI Safe Start plan is beyond the scope of HR expertise, employers should confirm which requirements apply to their industry; for assistance interpreting or implementing these requirements, employers should work with legal counsel.
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