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Whitmer signs COVID-19 workplace protections into law

Businesses are required to protect workers from the illness and are shielded from certain lawsuits
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signs bills providing workers and businesses with protections from...
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signs bills providing workers and businesses with protections from COVID-19.(source: State of Michigan)
Published: Oct. 22, 2020 at 12:33 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - A series of COVID-19 protections for Michigan workers and businesses are now law.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed several bills Thursday that protect workers from the spread of coronavirus on the job and protect businesses from lawsuits related to people contracting COVID-19 if they are following all prevention mandates.

Whitmer previously issued orders with requirements for all of the provisions in the law. However, the Michigan Supreme Court struck down the 1945 law she had been using to make orders and ruled they do not carry the force of law anymore.

The Republican-led Michigan Legislature approved new bills transforming many of Whitmer’s orders into laws during a session that lasted well into the night last week.

A centerpiece of the legislation signed Thursday imposes requirements on businesses to protect workers from COVID-19 on the job. Businesses are required to provide personal protective equipment and install various safety measures in the workplace.

Employers also are required to allow workers exposed to COVID-19 or showing symptoms of the illness to stay home with no job-related retaliation. The law allows up to $5,000 for violations -- and possibly higher for serious conduct or injuries.

“No Michigander should have to worry about going into work when they’re sick, especially during a global pandemic,” Whitmer said. “These bipartisan bills ensure crucial protections for our workers and businesses who do their part to protect our families and frontline workers from the spread of COVID-19."

The bills also shield businesses that are complying with COVID-19 measures from lawsuits if someone contracts the illness on their property. The law extends to employees who claim they got sick on the job or customers who claim they got coronavirus while they were at a business.

“Across our state, businesses, nonprofits, child care, academic facilities and the medical community have invested resources, time and energy in complying with public health requirements and operating in a safe manner. This legislation is good news for entities that have made these investments, and that continue to follow COVID-19 laws and regulations, allowing them to proceed with confidence and certainty,” said Wendy Block, vice president of business advocacy and member engagement for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.

Other bills Whitmer signed on Thursday:

  • Offer protections for medical providers and medical facilities previously covered by Whitmer’s orders.
  • Extend permits, professional licenses and registrations until Dec. 11.
  • Allow the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs to monitor nursing homes for compliance with COVID-19 measures and impose various safety protocols to protect residents.

“I look forward to more collaboration with the Legislature where we can find common ground," Whitmer said.

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