Michigan Provides Job Protections for Employees Who Stay Home Due to COVID-19

Author: Michael Cardman, XpertHR Legal Editor

April 7, 2020

A new executive order prohibits Michigan employers from discharging, disciplining or otherwise retaliating against employees who stay home because they are at particular risk of infecting others with the COVID-19 coronavirus.

"People who are prioritizing the health and safety of their families, neighbors and loved ones during this crisis should not be punished by their workplace," said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. "Staying home and staying safe is one of the most important things we can do to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Michigan, and this executive order will ensure more people can do so without facing discrimination from their workplace."

The order covers employees who test positive for COVID-19 or who display one or more of the principal symptoms (fever, atypical cough, or atypical shortness of breath) until:

  • Three days have passed since their symptoms have resolved, and
  • Seven days have passed since their symptoms first appeared or since they were swabbed for the test that yielded the positive result.

Also covered are employees who have had close contact (defined as being within approximately six feet of an individual for a prolonged period of time) with an individual who tests positive or who displays one or more of the principal symptoms of COVID-19 until either:

  • 14 days have passed since the last close contact with the sick or symptomatic individual; or
  • The symptomatic individual receives a negative COVID-19 test.

Health care professionals, childcare workers and certain other types of employees are not subject to this close contact coverage, however.

Employers must treat protected employees as if they were taking medical leave under the state's Paid Medical Leave Act (PMLA).

The order does not prevent an employer from discharging or disciplining an employee:

  • Who is allowed to return to work under the order but declines to do so;
  • With the employee's consent; or
  • For any other reason that is not unlawful.

The order took effect immediately after it was issued April 3 and will remain in effect until the end of the declared states of emergency and disaster.