In the current environment, employers should be concerned not only about reducing workplace virus exposure risk, but also about minimizing their legal exposure from employees and individuals seeking to hold them liable for COVID-19 infections.
The Michigan legislature recently passed multiple bills intended to address legal liability arising out of COVID-19. Under House Bill 6030:
A person who acts in compliance with all federal, state, and local statutes, rules, regulations, executive orders, and agency orders related to COVID-19 that had not been denied legal effect at the time of the conduct or risk that allegedly caused harm is immune from liability for a COVID-19 claim.
Similarly, House Bill 6031 excuses an employer from liability for damages resulting from an employee’s exposure to COVID-19 as long as the employer was operating in substantial compliance or reasonably consistent with federal or state statutes, regulations, executive orders, or public health guidance relevant to the exposure.
Finally, House Bill 6032 restricts COVID-19 positive employees and employees who have had close contact with COVID-19 positive individuals from reporting to work until certain conditions have been satisfied (establishing that it is safe for them to return). Compliant employees are protected from being terminated or retaliated against because they followed the law or opposed a violation of the law.
These bills underscore the importance of careful adherence to COVID-19 laws and regulations. They have been sent to Governor Whitmer and are expected to be signed into law. In the meantime, businesses should continue to be vigilant in the enforcement of COVID-19 workplace policies, while keeping abreast of new legal and regulatory developments. To that end, employees are well advised to adhere to the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administrations new Emergency Rules, which were issued after the Michigan Supreme Court held that Governor Whitmer’s COVID-19 executive orders were based on an unconstitutional statute and were therefore impermissible.
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