On April 12, 2021, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced that the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) would extend the sunset date for the state’s COVID-19 emergency rules, which were set to expire on April 14, 2021, for six more months.
Included in the emergency rules is a controversial remote-work policy rule that requires Michigan employers to direct employees to work at home “to the extent that their work activities can feasibly be completed remotely.” Attempting to define “feasibly,” MIOSHA has stated in the past that obstacles such as economic challenge, lack of efficiency, and technological limitations are inadequate reasons for bringing employees back to the workplace.
In her announcement, Governor Whitmer said, “I know that when we do extend [the emergency rules], which we will, people are going to think that that means you can’t go into the office for another six months, and that’s not the case.” She added that the state is working with business community leaders as well as public health experts to understand what a “back-to-work cadence looks like” and when a return may be possible.
In the meantime, the State of Michigan requires employers to continue to comply with the emergency rules and MIOSHA’s COVID-19 workplace safety guidelines.
As such, employers in Michigan may want to continue to analyze their office workforces and determine which employees can feasibly work remotely and why some employees may be required for in-person work. Employers may also want to be prepared to show their analyses in the event that MIOSHA knocks on the door. Production workers, retail employees, and other employees whose work cannot be performed remotely are not subject to the MIOSHA rule.
Ogletree Deakins’ Workplace Safety and Health Practice Group will continue to monitor and report on developments with respect to Michigan’s COVID-19 emergency rules and will post updates on the firm’s State Developments and Workplace Safety and Health blogs as additional information becomes available.
Ogletree Deakins will also continue to monitor and report on developments with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic and will post updates in the firm’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Center as additional information becomes available. Important information for employers is also available via the firm’s webinar and podcast programs.