As restrictions lift and Michigan businesses begin to open their doors again, thousands of employees will head back to the workplace. However, with the coronavirus still looming, companies will operate differently than they did before. Employers are revamping procedures as well as physical layouts in order to comply with new government requirements. As a result, many workers have questions about their safety and their rights in light of the current pandemic. Many of these questions concern employer liability and workers’ compensation for those who get sick in the workplace.
Here is an overview of the new employer guidelines and what workers can do to protect their rights.Do You Have a Case?
For employees who are considered “first responders,” it is presumed these workers were exposed to the virus in the process of doing their jobs. Therefore, their claims for workers’ compensation are likely to be approved without dispute.
First responders include ambulance or emergency care workers, doctors, nurses and other medical care providers, police officers and firefighters, corrections officers, and those who work in hospitals, nursing homes and other medical facilities.
In addition, service industry employees may also be exposed in the course of their jobs. This includes people who work in restaurants and retail stores, mail carriers, delivery personnel and others whose jobs require exposure to the public.
For others, such as office workers, it may be harder to prove where they were actually exposed to the virus. These employees may be asked to provide details about their exposure, such as a specific person, date and location. As with any workers’ compensation case, the employee must show that the illness “arose out of and in the course of employment.”
Since this is an untested area, it’s a good idea to consult a knowledgeable workers’ compensation lawyer if you are thinking of filing a claim.
The Michigan Workers’ Disability Compensation Act provides certain benefits to employees who are injured in the workplace. The program also covers employees who become ill because of a work-related situation.
The main covered categories are:
Typically, workers’ compensation is not based on fault. If you are hurt at work, you don’t have to prove your employer was responsible in order to receive benefits.
However, you do have to establish that your illness or injury was work-related.
For accidents, such as a fall or industrial calamity, this is straightforward. However, with COVID-19, the situation is not as clear.
If you are not sure whether you qualify for benefits, an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer will advise you on the best way to proceed.
Michigan employers are required to follow specific procedures and establish protocols to reduce the risk of infection. Here is a summary of the new guidelines, according to the governor’s most recent Executive Order.
In addition to these protocols, there are additional guidelines for certain types of businesses such as construction, manufacturing, retail establishments and offices.
Each business must develop a plan, in accordance with OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) guidelines, that is readily available employees, unions, and customers.
Employers must designate one or more supervisors who will oversee the plan and remain on-site whenever employees are present.
Employees must be trained in the following areas:
Positive cases must be reported within 24 hours to the local public health department and any co-workers/contractors/suppliers or others who may have come into contact with the person.
Employees who are ill or those who have tested positive may only return to work after they are no longer infectious, per CDC guidelines.
Employers must conduct daily entry screenings for all employees and contractors entering the workplace. The minimum requirement for these screenings is a questionnaire regarding symptoms and suspected or confirmed exposure to COVID-19.
Employers must take all possible measures to keep people at least six feet apart using floor markings, signs and physical barriers as needed.
Employers will provide non-medical grade face coverings and require employees to wear them whenever they cannot consistently maintain six feet of separation. Face shields should be considered for situations where employees cannot consistently maintain three feet of distancing.
Employers must clean and disinfect the workplace regularly, especially high-touch surfaces such as door handles. In addition, surfaces, objects and equipment that is shared by several people should be sanitized often.
Additionally, special cleaning and disinfecting protocols should be adopted if anyone in the workplace tests positive for COVID-19.
Further, employers must make cleaning supplies available to employees upon entry and throughout the worksite. They should also allow time for employees to wash hands and to sanitize often.
Employers are prohibited from discharging, disciplining, or retaliating against employees who stay home or who leave work due to infection risk.
Business trips should be restricted to essential travel only.
Employers should encourage remote work to the fullest possible extent.
COVID-19 or received a positive test result
Details about these measures, as well as future revisions to this order, can be found on the www.michigan.gov website.
Michigan workers’ compensation law is complicated, but finding the right workers compensation lawyer is simple.Do You Have a Case?
Call 1-800-CALL-SAM today for a free, no-obligation, remote consultation from the safety of your home.
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