Michigan Governor Vetoes Bill Forgiving COVID-Related Workplace Violations

By Tammy Hung
Tammy Hung
Tammy Hung
November 15, 2021 Updated: November 15, 2021

Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D-Mich.) on Nov. 11 vetoed a Republican-backed bill that would have forgiven some penalties imposed on businesses for first-time COVID-19 violations in Michigan.

House Bill 4501 would have prevented the Michigan Occupational and Safety Health Administration (MIOSHA) from issuing fines to businesses for a “first-time civil violation of an emergency standard related to COVID-19, if the employer corrects the violation,” according to a Nov. 3 statement from Michigan House Republicans.

The Bill, endorsed by Rep. Timmy Beson, would also require “MIOSHA to reimburse civil fines paid for violating executive orders related to COVID-19 that have been struck down by the Michigan Supreme Court.”

However, Gov. Whitmer said the bill would cause Michigan to “fall below the minimum standard required by federal law,” leading to “disastrous consequences.”

“When a state fails to maintain the minimum standard, it loses control over enforcement of workplace standards,” Whitmer wrote in her veto letter.

The Senate approved the Bill on Nov. 3.

“Small-business owners have worked hard to keep people safe and keep their doors open, and my plan will give some grace and relief to the employers in our state,” Beson stated on Nov. 3.

“This plan will help out the small businesses in our communities and move our state forward,” he added.

The Michigan Supreme Court on Oct. 2 had declared that a 1945 law, used repeatedly by Whitmer to issue pandemic orders, as unconstitutional.

However, Whitmer will ensure that emergency declarations and related orders remain in place for 21 days, with plans for some to continue “under alternative sources” of law according to the Associated Press.

According to Detroit News, MIOSHA has cited 532 COVID-related offenses during the pandemic. Of these complaints, 61 are being appealed while 149 remain open until employers correct the violation, apply for an appeal, or pay the fine.

In response to businesses protesting against fines following the Supreme court’s decision, MIOSHA has reportedly argued that its general duty clause enables it to issue fines for perceived hazards, according to reports.

Furthermore, the agency reportedly said that COVID-19 hazards were not only based on Whitmer’s executive orders, but also guided by CDC and federal workplace safety rules.

Tammy Hung