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Revised Michigan Executive Orders Amend Workplace Safety and Gathering Requirements, Highlighting Need for Continued COVID-19 Vigilance

On July 29, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced two new Executive Orders revising workplace and gathering safeguards intended to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the state. 

Executive Order 2020-160 provides remote-work requirements and revises limits on social gatherings, while Executive Order 2020-161 provides an updated list of general and industry specific workplace safety protocols for employers. 

EO 2020-160 follows the structure set out by previous “Safe-Start” orders, but adds an allowance for the three Detroit based casinos to open at 15% capacity beginning August 5th. The Order also places regions of Northern Michigan under the same set of rules for work and gatherings as the rest of the state. 

Whereas previously EO 2020-115 allowed indoor gatherings of 50 people and outdoor gatherings of 250 in Michigan’s Northern regions 6 and 8, EO 2020-160 limits gatherings indoors to 10 people and outdoors to 100 state-wide.  Additionally, EO 2020-160 appears to tighten up the requirements for working remotely.  Whereas EO 2020-115 provided that office work that can be performed remotely “should” be performed remotely, EO2020-160 states that across Michigan all work that can be performed remotely “must” be performed remotely, returning to the tighter “must” standard employed in an earlier order. The order also rescinds EO 2020-120, which provided for return of overnight camps to operation and EO 2020-133, which outlined a plan for restating professional sports. Under EO 2020-160 camps are subject the guidelines applicable to whichever part of the state where they are located, and professional sports must generally be played without a live audience - subject to a number of limited exceptions for regions of Northern Michigan. The order goes into effect on Friday, July 31st. 

The second Executive Order, EO 2020-161, is the fifth iteration of workplace safeguards issued to protect Michigan’s workers from COVID-19. Like its predecessors, the Order promulgates extensive industry-specific workplace protocols. EO 2020-161 contains a new set of protocols for casinos and racetracks, and also instructs restaurants and bars to take measures to encourage social distancing among those customers waiting for tables. Unlike EO 2020-160, EO 2020-161 became effective immediately upon issuance. Like previous orders, EO 2020-161 requires employers to, among other things:

  • Develop a COVID-19 preparedness plan, consistent with recommendations in Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19, developed by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration; 

  • Provide COVID-19 safety training and designate worksite supervisors; 

  • Conduct daily self-screening protocols; and

  • Provide face coverings and cleaning supplies to employees and require coverings to be worn when employees cannot consistently maintain six feet of separation.

While the changes set forth in both of these Executive Orders will not result in major immediate changes for most individuals and businesses, they signal a renewed emphasis by Governor Whitmer to encourage community vigilance and compliance with safety standards. When the Governor first announced her Safe Start plan on May 7, she emphasized the need to dial restrictions up or down as the COVID-19 pandemic progressed. Whether restrictions are tightened or eased in the coming weeks will most likely be dictated by case frequency rising or falling across the state. For more information, please contact your Foley relationship partner or the authors listed below. 

© 2023 Foley & Lardner LLPNational Law Review, Volume X, Number 212

About this Author

Steven H. Hilfinger, Foley Lardner, Senior Lender Counsel, Global Finance Lawyer

Steve Hilfinger is a partner and business lawyer with Foley & Lardner LLP. He has more than 25 years of transactional and finance experience, including representing private and public companies, senior lenders, mezzanine lenders and borrowers, venture capital funds and private equity funds, automotive suppliers and other manufacturers. Mr. Hilfinger focuses his practice in corporate and securities law matters, including mergers and acquisitions, corporate restructurings, private equity and venture capital transactions, debt and equity finance transactions, business...

RobNederhood, business lawyer
Senior Counsel

Robert Nederhood is a senior counsel and business lawyer with Foley & Lardner LLP where he focuses his practice on mergers and acquisitions, and represents public and private companies in connection with transactions, corporate restructurings, and commercial contracting. He also has experience representing both debtors and purchasers in connection with the sale of companies in bankruptcy, and assists clients with a variety of Michigan state government matters.

Jeffery Kopp, Labor Attorney, Foley and Lardner Law Firm

Jeffrey S. Kopp is a partner and litigation attorney with Foley & Lardner LLP. He has represented and counseled clients in various labor and employment, FMLA, OFCCP and EEO compliance, unemployment, workers compensation leave, and non-compete and trade secret matters. Mr. Kopp is a member of the firm’s Labor & Employment Practice, the Automotive Industry Team and the Trade Secret/Non-Compete Task Force. Mr. Kopp also represents employers in matters involving federal and state occupational safety and health agencies, including matters involving employee fatalities...

Felicia S. O'Connor, Foley Lardner, Automotive Industry Lawyer, Labor Attorney

Felicia O’Connor is an associate and litigation lawyer with Foley & Lardner LLP. She is a member of the Labor & Employment Practice and the Automotive Industry Team. Previously, Ms. O’Connor worked as a summer associate in Foley’s Detroit Office. She has also served as a law clerk for Oakland City Attorney’s Office, where she conducted research and prepared memoranda on a range of municipal law topics.

Kenneth A. Johnson Business Attorney Foley & Lardner Detroit, MI

Kenneth Johnson is a business law associate with Foley & Lardner LLP. He is a member of the firm’s Transactions Practice.

Previously, Ken served as a summer associate at Foley’s Detroit Office. Prior to joining Foley, Ken worked as a summer associate assisting with bond issuances and real estate matters for public schools. He was also a founding member of the University of Michigan Health System Finance Development Program, where he worked as a finance and strategy consultant prior to law school.


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