House Republicans have passed a package of bills (HB 6030, 6031, 6032, and 6101) which together make it harder for workers to hold their employers accountable for safe workplaces during the pandemic. Businesses would be immune from COVID-19 related lawsuits unless workers can prove the incredibly high standard of “gross negligence.” Republican legislators appear to be just fine with merely ordinary levels of negligence or even incompetence.
Employers who meet existing safety regulations and public safety recommendations are already safe from liability under current Michigan law. This law lowers the bar and allows businesses get away with even less than the bare minimum requirements already in place.
Worker safety precautions are crucial to prevent the easily transmitted and deadly virus. Many employees are rightly apprehensive about their working conditions and the ability of their bosses to keep them safe. These bills invite employers to cut corners and put workers at risk while avoiding accountability.
Donna MacKenzie, President of the Michigan Association for Justice, says the bill sets a bar so high that it would be impossible to prove under current Michigan law. “The reality is that this standard is nearly impossible to meet under current Michigan law,” MacKenzie told the Detroit News on September 23, the day after the bills were passed in the House, largely along party lines.
The Senate should not pass this legislation. If it does, Governor Whitmer should veto it.