Employment Law Questions Related to Corona Virus – COVID-19

Thank you for contacting Sterling Attorneys at Law, PC with your questions.

Just as present times are uncertain, so too are the state, federal, and local responses to the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. The legal requirements and implications for both employees and employers are also evolving and changing rapidly in an unprecedented manner.

Therefore, this email is not intended as legal advice; nor is this response intended to create an attorney/client relationship. Rather, we are trying to answer general questions as they come in as a public service.

If your question warrants a specific legal response, our staff will do an intake, and one of our attorneys will follow up if there is anything specific we can do to help.

These are the issues that seem to be of most concern at this time:

1. Essential workers.

If you have a question as to whether or not you are an "essential" worker, required to report to work during the Governor's "shelter in place" emergency order, the answer has been defined by the Governor's Office. Without repeating what these officials have said, please click here and here for helpful links to better answer your questions.

If your employer requires you to report as an "essential" worker, and you still have questions, you can ask your employer to clarify that designation. Click here for some pointers given by Michigan's Attorney General's Office.

You can also consult Michigan's Occupational Health and Safety Administration (MIOSHA), including making a complaint for working in hazardous conditions. Click here for MIOSHA's website.

2. Employees with compromised health being required to work.

If you have a pre-existing condition or compromised immune system but your employer is requiring you to work, you should consider providing a letter to your employer from your health care provider explaining that you are at higher risk for contracting the corona virus, and requesting an accommodation, such as being allowed to work from home. If your employer denies you that accommodation, you may have a viable claim for which you can file a complaint with MIOSHA (see previous link) or the Michigan Attorney General. Click here for helpful information.

3. Personal Protective Equipment

Similarly, if you are required to work without proper personal protection equipment, this may also be a violation of MIOSHA and other laws, and you can file a complaint with MIOSHA or the Michigan Attorney General.

Generally, an employee who is fired, demoted, or disciplined for making a complaint to MIOSHA or the Michigan Attorney General regarding unsafe or hazardous working conditions may have legal recourse for that negative action under laws prohibiting retaliation, including Michigan's Whistleblower Protection Act.

From an employment law perspective, we do not recommend that you refuse to report to work, nor should you quit your job; of course, though, you need to do what is best for you and your family's health and welfare. If there are specific health concerns with reporting (i.e. you feel you have been exposed to COVID-19), you should also contact your primary care physician for medical advice.

We hope you have found the above information to be helpful. If your issue is more fact specific, or you still have additional questions, please feel free to contact us again and we will review your issue in more detail, and do our best to further help you navigate these difficult waters.

We wish you the best. We hope you stay safe and healthy. And most of all, we thank you for considering Sterling Attorneys at Law, PC to handle your legal needs.