On Monday, June 1, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced plans to lift the state’s stay-at-home order and allow many Michigan businesses to reopen, with certain restrictions still in place. However, the coronavirus has not been eliminated, and many workers may not feel safe returning to work. The attorneys at NachtLaw, P.C. can help you navigate your employment situation.

I can do my job remotely – do I have to go back to work?

Under the Governor’s Executive Order No. 2020-110, work that can be done remotely must continue to be done remotely.

My employer wants me to return to work, but I still have kids at home.

You may still be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency has issued new guidelines for eligibility during the pandemic. The law provides that in order to remain eligible for benefits, workers cannot refuse “suitable work” unless they have “good cause” to do so. Under the new guidelines, you have “good cause” if you have a family care responsibility as a result of COVID-19 and you do not have access to customary arrangements or a reasonable alternative. This includes childcare responsibilities if your child’s school is closed, or if you are required to care for someone with a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19.

You may also have the right to up to ten weeks paid leave under the Emergency Family Medical Leave Act (EFMLA), if you are unable to work or telework because you need to care for your minor child because your child’s school or place of care is closed or the childcare provider is unavailable due to a public health emergency. You may also qualify for up to two weeks of paid sick leave from your employer under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA).

I have COVID-19, have symptoms of COVID-19, or have a higher risk of contracting the disease.

If you are under self-isolation or self-quarantine because you are immunocompromised and have a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, you may have good cause to refuse suitable work and remain eligible for unemployment benefits; for example, if you are over 65 years old or have a medical condition such as cancer, heart disease, lung disease, chronic liver disease undergoing dialysis, severe obesity, or diabetes.

If you or a household member has a fever, atypical cough, or atypical shortness of breath, you may remain eligible for unemployment benefits if you refuse to return to work, but you must have tested positive, have been diagnosed with COVID-19 by a medical professional, or be seeking a diagnosis.

If you have had contact with someone with a confirmed diagnosis in the last 14 days, you may remain eligible for unemployment benefits. If you are ill or caring for someone who is ill, you may also have rights to up to two weeks of paid sick leave from your employer under the EPSLA.

I’m an independent contractor – can I remain eligible for unemployment benefits?

Yes – the new Unemployment Insurance Agency guidelines apply to self-employed workers and 1099 workers.

I am afraid my workplace is not safe – what should I do?

If you have a reasonable belief that your workplace is unsafe or not in compliance with state or federal safety guidance and laws, you may have good cause to refuse to return to work and remain eligible for unemployment benefits. If your employer says the workplace is safe and in compliance with the law, you may still remain eligible for benefits if you have a reasonable belief that the workplace is not meeting safety requirements until a determination is made.

Merely being afraid to work is not enough – you have to show why you believe the workplace is unsafe. If the Unemployment Insurance Agency finds that you did not have good cause to refuse suitable work, you may be ineligible for future unemployment benefits and have to pay back benefits already received.

Also, if you have particular health concerns, and are supported by medical documentation, you may be entitled to accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and/or leave under the traditional Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

The attorneys at NachtLaw, P.C. are available to answer your questions about your employment situation. Call us today.