Revised Michigan Executive Orders Amend Workplace Safety and Gathering Requirements, Highlighting Need for Continued COVID-19 Vigilance

Foley & Lardner LLPOn July 29, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced two new Executive Orders revising workplace and gathering safeguards intended to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the state. 

Executive Order 2020-160 provides remote-work requirements and revises limits on social gatherings, while Executive Order 2020-161 provides an updated list of general and industry specific workplace safety protocols for employers. 

EO 2020-160 follows the structure set out by previous “Safe-Start” orders, but adds an allowance for the three Detroit based casinos to open at 15% capacity beginning August 5th. The Order also places regions of Northern Michigan under the same set of rules for work and gatherings as the rest of the state. 

Whereas previously EO 2020-115 allowed indoor gatherings of 50 people and outdoor gatherings of 250 in Michigan’s Northern regions 6 and 8, EO 2020-160 limits gatherings indoors to 10 people and outdoors to 100 state-wide.  Additionally, EO 2020-160 appears to tighten up the requirements for working remotely.  Whereas EO 2020-115 provided that office work that can be performed remotely “should” be performed remotely, EO2020-160 states that across Michigan all work that can be performed remotely “must” be performed remotely, returning to the tighter “must” standard employed in an earlier order. The order also rescinds EO 2020-120, which provided for return of overnight camps to operation and EO 2020-133, which outlined a plan for restating professional sports. Under EO 2020-160 camps are subject the guidelines applicable to whichever part of the state where they are located, and professional sports must generally be played without a live audience - subject to a number of limited exceptions for regions of Northern Michigan. The order goes into effect on Friday, July 31st. 

The second Executive Order, EO 2020-161, is the fifth iteration of workplace safeguards issued to protect Michigan’s workers from COVID-19. Like its predecessors, the Order promulgates extensive industry-specific workplace protocols. EO 2020-161 contains a new set of protocols for casinos and racetracks, and also instructs restaurants and bars to take measures to encourage social distancing among those customers waiting for tables. Unlike EO 2020-160, EO 2020-161 became effective immediately upon issuance. Like previous orders, EO 2020-161 requires employers to, among other things:

  • Develop a COVID-19 preparedness plan, consistent with recommendations in Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19, developed by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration; 
  • Provide COVID-19 safety training and designate worksite supervisors; 
  • Conduct daily self-screening protocols; and
  • Provide face coverings and cleaning supplies to employees and require coverings to be worn when employees cannot consistently maintain six feet of separation.

While the changes set forth in both of these Executive Orders will not result in major immediate changes for most individuals and businesses, they signal a renewed emphasis by Governor Whitmer to encourage community vigilance and compliance with safety standards. When the Governor first announced her Safe Start plan on May 7, she emphasized the need to dial restrictions up or down as the COVID-19 pandemic progressed. Whether restrictions are tightened or eased in the coming weeks will most likely be dictated by case frequency rising or falling across the state. 

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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