As Michigan begins to reopen its economy, businesses should be aware of policies and procedures to follow as they resume operations. This article is the third in a series exploring the theme Staffing Your Business During a Global Health Pandemic.
Governor Whitmer appears to be following a phased approach to allowing businesses to resume operations. Businesses should carefully consider what reopening looks like for them and how the ongoing pandemic can continue to impact business and employment decisions.
Michigan’s Stay Home, Stay Safe Order has been rescinded and replaced several times (EOs 2020-21, 42, 59, 70, and 77) since the Governor initially declared a state of emergency. A subsequent version of the order, introduced the concept of the “COVID-19 Preparedness Response Plan” and other policy considerations. Here are some of the basics to get you started:
1. COVID-19 Preparedness Response Plan.
The Order links to a lengthy guidance document on workplace risk assessment from OSHA. Businesses should be prepared to categorize their workers according to the 4 levels of risk and to implement the appropriate safety measures:
Low Risk Exposure jobs are those that do not require contact with people known to be, or suspected of being, infected with COVID-19 nor frequent close contact with (i.e., within 6 feet of) the general public.
Medium Risk Exposure jobs include those that require frequent and/or close contact with (i.e., within 6 feet of) people who may be infected with COVID-19, but who are not known or suspected COVID-19 patients.
High Risk Exposure jobs are those with high potential for exposure to known or suspected sources of COVID-19. Workers in this category include healthcare workers, EMS, and others that are exposed to known or suspected COVID-19 patients.
Very High Risk Exposure jobs are those with high potential for exposure to known or suspected sources of COVID-19 during specific medical, postmortem, or laboratory procedures. This category will include professionals that handle aeorsol-generating procedures, like intubation, on known or suspected COVID-19 patients.
Each business should make this assessment for itself; however, it is likely that many small businesses will fall into the low-risk or medium-risk categories. All workplaces should consider these basic precautions:
- promote frequent and thorough hand washing,
- increase standards for facility cleaning,
- encouraging sick employees to stay home,
- encourage employees to cover up their sneezes/coughs,
- practice safe social distancing, and
- other common-sense precautions identified by public health and safety authorities.
But you should also check OSHA guidance to see what other precautions may be appropriate for your type of operations.
2. Evaluate Staffing and Employment Policies
If and when the Governor allows business activities to resume, the novel coronavirus will not have simply disappeared. Rather, employers, employees, customers, and other workplace visitors will have to remain on guard to decrease the risk of transmitting COVID-19.
The current Stay Home order requires employers to “promote remote work to the fullest extent possible.” The order provides no further direction, which means that it will be up to each employer to determine to what extent, if at all, it is “possible” for employees to work from home.
For those operations where in-person work is required, employers may consider limited staffing arrangements or alternative work hours in order to decrease the concentration of employees in the workspace at the same time.
This is also a good opportunity for employers to dust off their employee handbooks and policy manuals. With remote work and limited staffing, it will be critical to have solid policies in place so that both workers and management are aware of procedures and expectations. Businesses should look especially carefully at policies related to working from home, reporting hours worked and overtime, company-owned property policies, and leave time policies.
3. Other Federal, State, and Local Guidelines
Businesses should check with their local public health officials, some of whom have their own emergency public health orders in effect that businesses must comply with. For example, the Wayne County Department of Health, Human & Veterans Services issued order #20-02, which requires employers to implement daily screening procedures for their employees. In Wayne County, employees displaying COVID symptoms may not return to work until 7 days have passed since symptoms first appeared and must also be fever-free for 3 days with improvement in respiratory symptoms.
Businesses should also check in regularly with the CDC to see current information on Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers.Additionally, Section 11 of EO 2020-77 has additional criteria that all businesses should consider. There are specific requirements applicable to those in certain industries, such as construction and manufacturing.
Please keep in mind, the Governor declared a state of emergency on March 10, 2020 with EO 2020-4. At the time this is being written, there are 77 executive orders. In other words, over a 58-day period, the Governor issued an average of more than one order per day. This is an extremely rapidly evolving and dynamic area of law. Businesses should evaluate their legal responsibilities and compliance requirements on a daily basis.
If you have questions about Michigan’s myriad of ambiguous Executive Orders, contact a business attorney with experience guiding businesses and individuals through this pandemic. You can reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call/text at (734) 956-0113.
P.S. Check out my video explaining some aspects of EO 2020-59. But note that within two weeks of EO 2020-59, the Governor replaced it TWICE with EOs 2020-70 and 2020-77 to allow construction, certain real estate-related businesses, and manufacturers, and others to resume. Information is changing DAILY so continue to check in and contact me with any questions.