Whitmer Signs Emergency Rules on Remote Hearings and Workers Comp for Frontliners

State agencies can continue to conduct remote hearings and workers’ compensation coverage for health care employees and first responders who test positive for COVID-19 have been clarified as a result of two new sets of Emergency Rules issued today by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

In her first action today, Governor Whitmer signed Emergency Rules allowing the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) and the Michigan Public Service Commission (PSC) to conduct remote hearings to protect Michiganders and frontline workers.

Whitmer says, “Continuing the practice of remote hearings will help us continue to protect Michigan families, frontline workers, and small businesses,” and adds, “As our state continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and as the 2020-2021 flu season approaches, my administration will continue to do everything in our power to protect Michigan residents.”

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in Michigan, and with the authority given by emergency executive orders, the administrative law judges (ALJs) and Tax Tribunal members at the Michigan Office of Administrative Hearings and Rules (MOAHR) have remotely conducted nearly 25,000 hearings, all while maintaining the organizational mission – to provide a timely, professional, sound, impartial and respectful administrative hearing process consistent with all legal requirements.

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Whitmer says that despite the Michigan Supreme Court’s recent ruling, MOAHR has administrative rule authority to continue to conduct hearings by telephone or video conference in order to reduce the risk to all hearing participants of both the transmission and a resurgence of COVID-19. However, the current ruleset does not apply to administrative hearings held on behalf of the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) and the Michigan Public Service Commission (PSC).

Her narrow emergency rule amendment will therefore revise Rule 121 of the MAHS administrative hearing rules, Rule 792.10121, to allow MOAHR to continue to remotely conduct hearings on behalf of the MERC and the PSC.

To view the signed Emergency Rules, click the link below:

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In her next action, Gov. Whitmer signed Emergency Rules to clarify workers’ compensation coverage for health care employees and first responders who have tested positive for COVID-19. The Emergency Rules apply to workers in the medical industry, including hospitals, medical care facilities, and emergency medical services, as well as law enforcement, fire safety, and others. Those employees are presumed eligible for compensable personal injuries under the Workers’ Disability Compensation Act if they are diagnosed with COVID-19, either by a physician or as the result of a presumed positive test result.

The governor says, “These brave men and women have been on the front lines of this pandemic, putting themselves at risk to protect our families,” and adds, “These Emergency Rules will provide some crucial support for these workers who are most susceptible to contracting COVID-19. My administration will continue to do everything we can to protect the health and safety of our families, frontline workers, and small businesses.”

The governor concurred with the COVID-19 Workplace Safety Director’s finding that issuance of emergency rules was necessary to protect public health, and the rules are effective immediately.

Sean Egan, LEO Deputy Director of Labor, says, “While employees in Michigan must be covered by workers’ compensation and may file a claim for benefits if injured at work, these rules will help ensure that those closest to the virus won’t be fighting for benefits if they’re also faced with fighting COVID-19.”

These Emergency Rules replace protections previously afforded by Executive Order 2020-128, which is no longer effective as a result of the Michigan Supreme Court’s finding that the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act of 1945 is unconstitutional. They are effective through March 20, 2021.

To view the emergency rules, visit here.

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