Bloomberg Law
April 3, 2020, 5:28 PM

Michigan Bans Firing Workers Who Care for ‘Contacts’ With Virus

Alex Ebert
Alex Ebert
Staff Correspondent

Michigan businesses are prohibited from firing or disciplining employees who walk off jobs to take care of “close contacts” with symptoms of the novel coronavirus, under an executive order issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The order requires businesses to treat employees as if those workers have taken medical leave under the state’s paid medical leave act. The order further requires bosses to provide unpaid leave during the state’s coronavirus emergency order if an employee has exhausted their leave. Under Michigan law, private employers with 50 or more employees are required to provide a minimum of 36 hours of paid sick leave annually.

The order follows complaints from workers at large Michigan employers such as U.S. Steel Corp., Detroit automakers General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler, and Inc. warehouses, where employees have said they wish to remain home or want more workplace safety measures during the coronavirus outbreak.

The order has various exceptions for health-care, emergency services, correctional facilities, and child protective services workers. But covered employees will be able to take leave “when they or their close contacts are sick,” and applies when a “close contact” has symptoms of the virus, not just for those who have tested positive.

“Staying home and staying safe is one of the most important things we can do to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Michigan, and this executive order will ensure more people can do so without facing discrimination from their workplace,” Whitmer (D) said.

For additional legal resources, visit Bloomberg Law In Focus: Coronavirus (Bloomberg Law Subscription).

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Ebert in Columbus, Ohio at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Karl Hardy at; Jay-Anne B. Casuga at