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Michigan’s Busy December: Legislature Passes Several Employment-Related Bills

Although passage of Right-to-Work legislation in Michigan dominated political headlines in December, the Michigan Legislature also pushed through a number of additional bills that will impact Michigan employers.

Internet Privacy Protection Act prohibits employer access to social media passwords 

With the passage of H.B. 5523 (2012 P.A. 478), signed into law by Governor Rick Snyder on Dec. 27, 2012, Michigan became the fourth state to bar employers from asking job applicants for passwords to the applicant’s social media accounts and other private internet accounts. The Internet Privacy Protection Act prohibits employers from asking employees or applicants “to grant access to, allow observation of, or disclose information that allows access to or observation of the employee’s or applicant’s personal internet account.” The law does not prohibit employers from requiring access to an account or service used by an employee for the employer’s business purposes or from accessing or monitoring an electronic communications device paid for by the employer. The law also does not prohibit an employer from accessing or reviewing online content that an applicant or employee makes publicly available. Violations of the act are punishable by a maximum civil fine of $1,000, and applicants or employees who have been the subject of a violation of the act may bring a civil action to recover up to $1,000 in damages, plus costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees. The law was passed with immediate effect.

Medical marijuana not covered by workers compensation

On Dec. 27, 2012, the Governor also signed into law S.B. 933 (2012 P.A. 481), which amended the state’s worker’s disability compensation regulations to specifically state that an employer who is required to reimburse a worker for medical expenses is not required to reimburse for charges for medical marijuana treatment. Michigan legalized medical marijuana by ballot initiative in November 2008.

State workplace health and safety regulation limited

The Michigan Legislature also passed several bills in December related to workplace health and safety regulation which practically eliminate Michigan’s development of more restrictive workplace health and safety standards, deferring instead to federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) regulations. S.B. 1335 (2012 P.A. 415), signed by Governor Snyder on Dec. 20, 2012, requires that Michigan’s workplace health and safety rules not exceed federal standards unless “a clear and convincing need” for Michigan-specific regulation can be shown. Governor Snyder also signed H.B. 5922, H.B. 5917, and S.B. 1336, which eliminate the state’s General Industry Standards Commission, Construction Safety Standards Commission, and Occupational Health Standards Commission, respectively.

Changes to concealed weapons laws vetoed

Finally, a concealed weapons bill that would have affected some Michigan employers was vetoed by Governor Snyder on Dec. 18, 2012. S.B. 59 would have allowed certain concealed pistol license holders who obtained additional training to carry a concealed weapon in schools, churches, hospitals, entertainment facilities and other locations which under the current law do not permit concealed weapons on the premises, even if a person has a license. In a statement, the Governor highlighted the inability of public institutions like schools to opt out of the law (the law as passed allowed private venues to opt out) as one reason why he vetoed the law. The bill passed the Michigan Legislature only one day prior to the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut on Dec. 14, 2012, which likely prompted additional scrutiny by the Governor.



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Barnes & Thornburg’s Labor and Employment Law Department is one of the fastest-growing labor groups in the nation. Two qualities set us apart: Our passion for what we do, and the pride we take in helping clients achieve their business goals. To succeed in the competitive global marketplace, our clients must not only meet but exceed their customers’ expectations. We share this objective, offering superior service, innovative ideas and an understanding of the challenges our clients face.