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Michigan Ramps Up Workplace Safety Regulations and Enforcement Powers Under New Executive Order

Gov. Whitmer released detailed new workplace safety regulations on Monday, May 18, 2020 through Executive Order 2020-91 (Order). The Order also provides the State of Michigan with enhanced enforcement capabilities and greater consequences for employers who disregard the rules. The Order does not identify an expiration date for the new workplace rules.

New Workplace Safety Rules

The Order sets out 17 general workplace safety rules that apply to all employers who are conducting in-person operations during the coronavirus pandemic, pursuant to Executive Order 2020-92. While some of these workplace safety rules are restated from previous executive orders, others - such as the requirement that employers designate one or more workplace supervisors to oversee COVID-19 control strategies - are new. New rules include mandated COVID-19 employee training and the development of a daily entry self-screening protocol for all employers.

In addition to the general workplace safety rules, the Order identifies numerous industry-specific workplace safety rules to combat the spread of COVID-19. Industries that must comply with these specific rules are: employers whose work is performed outdoors; construction; manufacturing; research laboratories (excluding labs that perform diagnostic testing); retail stores that are open for in person sales; offices; and restaurants and bars.

Enhanced Enforcement Powers

Previously, employers who failed to follow COVID-19 workplace safety rules were subject to a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine and/or 90 days in jail. The Order now provides two new routes for enforcement. First, the workplace safety rules are given the force and effect of regulations adopted by the state agencies that oversee workplace health and safety. Such agencies are given full authority to enforce the rules, and any challenges to penalties must move through the agencies' administrative appeals process. Second, the Order states that violations of the workplace safety rules are also violations of the Michigan Occupational Health and Safety Act (MIOSHA). As a result, Michigan's Occupational Safety and Health Administration will have the authority to conduct investigations into violations, issue penalties and distribute cease operation orders.

In addition, because the Order mandates employee training on how to report unsafe working conditions, employers should anticipate the possibility of such internal reports or MIOSHA investigations. Employers should also be mindful not to retaliate against employees who file such complaints.


© 2020 Varnum LLPNational Law Review, Volume X, Number 141



About this Author

David E. Khorey, Labor Employment Attorney, Varnum, Workplace Confidentiality Matters Lawyer

Dave’s “client-centered” practice involves a variety of labor and employment issues. He provides practical and confidential ongoing advice and consulting on a number of sensitive and complex labor and employment matters, from problem employee situations to multi-facility collective bargaining negotiations. His representative clients include diverse industries (such as automotive, printing, transportation and hospitals) throughout the nation.  

Dave has also served as chair of the firm.

Honors & Recognitions...

Richard R. Symons, labor and employment lawyer, Varnum

Rick is a member of Varnum's Labor and Employment Practice Team. He focuses on the defense of employers in workers’ compensation litigation, from managing contested cases in an aggressive and efficient manner to assessing cost-containment methods. He represents employers at all levels of the court system, including the Workers’ Compensation Appellate Court, the Michigan Court of Appeals, and Michigan Supreme Court.

Rick has handled multiple Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) inspections and appeals, including appeals of citations following a complaint,...

Ethan Beswick Business Attorney Varnum Law Firm

Ethan Beswick is an associate attorney with a business and corporate service practice and additional experience in tax, real estate and aircraft matters. He provides general business and transactional work and has experience in mergers and acquisitions, business transactions, financing, contracts, and day-to-day business issues.

Ethan also works regularly with business tax, international tax, and other tax related issues, and assists clients with real estate sales and acquisitions, commercial leasing matters, and real estate financing transactions.

 An instrument-rated...

Ashleigh E. Draft Associate Grand Rapids Labor & Employment

Ashleigh is an associate attorney currently working with the labor and employment group. She also works with higher education clients and provides support on a variety of litigation matters.

Ashleigh’s experience includes serving as a legal extern for the Michigan Court of Appeals Research Division. She also clerked for Michigan Appeals Court Judge Jane Beckering. Prior to law school, Ashleigh served organizations in the higher education and nonprofit sectors in various development and communications roles.