Governor Whitmer Signs New Executive Order Protecting Workers

April 7, 2020

Governor Whitmer signed a new Executive Order (E.O.) on April 3 to prohibit employers from discharging, disciplining or otherwise retaliating against an employee for staying home from work if they or one of their close contacts are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 or tests positive for the virus.  The E.O., which went into effect when it was signed, also specifies that Michiganders who test positive or show symptoms, or who live with someone who tests positive or shows symptoms, should not leave their homes unless absolutely necessary.

The Executive Order (E.O. 2020-36) specifies that:

  • Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 or who display one or more of the symptoms of the disease should remain in their homes 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 a test that yielded the positive result or the symptomatic individual receives a negative COVID-19 test.
  • All people who have had close contact with an individual who tests positive for COVID-19 or with an individual who displays symptoms of the virus should remain at their homes until either 14 days have passed since the last close contact or the symptomatic individual receives a negative COVID-19 test. This section does not apply to health care professionals, workers at a health care facility, first responders, child care workers and correctional facilities.
  • When symptomatic people and their close contacts must leave the home, they should wear some form of covering over their nose and mouth, such as a homemade mask, bandana or scarf. For now, supplies of N95 masks and surgical masks should generally be reserved for health care professionals and first responders.

The E.O. finds that it “is the public policy of this state that an employer shall not discharge, discipline, or otherwise retaliate against an employee for staying home when he or she is at particular risk of infecting others with COVID-19 and specifies that an “employer may not discharge or discipline an employee who is staying home from work in compliance with the policies laid out above.”  It also specifies that:

  • Employers must allow employees to stay home from work for the periods described above.
  • Employers may not retaliate against employees for taking such leave.
  • Employers must treat such an employee as if s/he were taking medical leave under Michigan’s Paid Medical Leave Act (PMLA). 
  • If the employee has no paid leave, the leave may be unpaid. Employers are permitted, but not required, to debit the hours from the employee’s accrued leave.
  • Employers may not discharge, discipline or retaliate against such employees for failing to comply with a requirement to document that the employee or his/her close contact has one or more of the primary COVID-19 symptoms.

It is important to note that the E.O. applies to all employers, regardless of size.  However, it contains a limited number of exceptions for certain workers (e.g., health care professionals, workers at health care facilities, first responders, child protective service employees, workers at child caring facilities, workers at correctional facilities). 

Please contact Wendy Block with any questions at