Michigan has hit the 55% target of vaccinated individuals receiving at least a single vaccination dose, and this means that office work may resume effective Monday, May 24, 2021.
Practically, what does this mean for employers?
1. Employees May Still be Reluctant to Return to Work
As we have seen with businesses that have continued to operate in person during the pandemic, employees may have medical conditions or religious reasons for not receiving a vaccine. So some employees may not be vaccinated. These individuals may be fearful of contracting COVID-19 in the workplace, and may request accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act or Title VII. Employers will have to engage in the interactive process with these employees to determine whether there are reasonable accommodations that must be provided to the employee in order to comply with the ADA. In addition, some employees have minor children whose schools might still be affected by COVID-19, and they may need time off to deal with these contingencies. No doubt, employers will have to be flexible in handling these accommodations, leave and attendance issues.
2. Employers Will Still Have to Fear MIOSHA
Most employers have gone above and beyond to make their workplaces reasonably safe, implementing rigid controls to prevent the spread of the virus and to protect their workforces. However, MIOSHA is still actively citing employers for violations of its October 14, 2020 Emergency Rules, which require, among other things, employee surveillance, training, reporting and recordkeeping. While MIOSHA claims that it is reviewing the Emergency Rules, employers are currently subject to considerable fines for violating the existing Emergency Rules requirements. Undoubtedly, employers will have to continue to enforce mask requirements and social distancing and will be cited if they do not.
3. Employers Likely Will Adopt a Phased-in Approach
Despite the relaxation of a work from home requirement, the reality is that many employers will not require their entire workforce to report to work on May 24. While some employers may have an interest in returning their entire workforce to on-site work, many employers likely will phase in the return to work, allowing some employees to come in sooner. Those with more pressing in-person demands may be first back to work; while others who are equally productive in a remote setting may opt for the status quo. This may not be a bad option for employers to limit risk during this impending change.
In any event, Michigan employers should be ready for a rapidly changing employment landscape.