Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s June. 17, 2020, order clarifying eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits for workplace exposure to COVID-19 is presumably overturned by the state supreme court’s ruling that the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act (EPGA) of 1945 is unconstitutional.
Acknowledging the ongoing litigation over the limits of her emergency powers during the COVID-19 pandemic under the EPGA, Whitmer issued executive order No. 2020-125 under both the EPGA and the Emergency Management Act. In its Oct. 2, ruling, however, the Michigan Supreme Court also found that the governor “lacked the authority to declare a ‘state of emergency’ or a ‘state of disaster’ under the EMA after April 30, 2020, on the basis of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Whitmer’s June 17 executive order applied to “COVID-19 response employees” and released such employees that contract COVID-19 from the requirement to prove they contracted it in the course of their employment in order to be eligible for workers’ compensation wage-loss benefits if the disease prevents them from performing their job duties.
The order states that a “COVID-19 response employee means an employee whose job responsibilities require them to have regular or prolonged contact with COVID-19 in the course of their employment.” Under the order, impacted employees include healthcare workers, emergency response personnel, firefighters, law enforcement officers and penal institution workers, among others.
Michigan was one of several states that either amended rules or issued executive orders to expand workers’ compensation eligibility in response to COVID-19. Other states include Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota and Washington.
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