March 18, 2020

Michigan Employment Security Act EO Amendment

Governor Whitmer has issued an Executive Order amending the Michigan Employment Security Act (the “Act”) effective immediately and continuing until April 14, 2020 at 11:59 pm. This Act established the unemployment compensation fund and lays the groundwork for unemployment insurance benefit procedures.

Previously, the Act held individuals were disqualified from receiving benefits if he or she “left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to the employer or employing unit.” This provision also disqualified individuals from receiving unemployment benefits who were absent from work for a period of 3 consecutive days or more without contacting the employer.

The amendment now provides that an individual must be considered to have left work involuntarily for medical reasons if they leave work for any the following reasons:
  • Self-isolation or self-quarantine in response to elevated risk from COVID-19 due to being immuno-compromised;
  • Displaying symptoms of COVID-19;
  • Having contact in the last 14 days with someone with a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19; or
  • A family care responsibility as a result of a government directive.

Pursuant to this Executive Order, employees placed on employer-granted leaves of absences due to any of the above factors will be considered unemployed during this time, unless the individual is already on sick leave or receiving a disability benefit.

Additionally, this Executive Order requires individuals unemployed for the above-mentioned reasons to be on layoff and entitled to collect unemployment benefits in Michigan. However, this amendment makes clear that employers are not responsible for unemployment benefits for those employees who are unemployed due to an Executive Order requiring the employer to close or limit operations.

This Executive Order significantly changes the usual requirements of this Act including:
  • Providing employees 28 days from the last day worked to file a claim;
  • Increasing benefits from 20 weeks to 26 weeks;
  • Suspending the in-person registration and work search requirements; and
  • Relaxing shared-work plan requirements.

For more information from the state, please see Governor Whitmer’s press release here. If you have additional questions on how this change may impact your workforce, please contact a Kerr Russell attorney.

Stay current on COVID-19 matters relating to your business by referring to the Kerr Russell COVID-19 Resource Center.

Mark C. KnothImage of Mark C. Knoth, Employment and Labor attorney of Kerr Russell chairs the firm’s Labor, Employment, Employee Benefits & ERISA Practice Group. He counsels and advises business owners, managers and human resources professionals on workplace issues. These include civil rights and anti-discrimination laws; employee discipline; wage and hour; overtime; employee leaves; reasonable accommodations; veterans issues; picketing; secondary boycotts; reductions in force; drug testing; unemployment compensation; affirmative action; and union organizing campaigns, among other matters. He additionally drafts employee policies, handbooks, contracts, and covenants not to compete, and investigates threats of violence, allegations of harassment, and other employee misconduct.

Liam K. HealyLiam K. Healy of Kerr Russell practice clients maintain compliance with state and federal tax laws that govern individuals and businesses focuses his practice on helping clients maintain compliance with the myriad of state and federal tax laws and regulations that govern individuals and businesses. A particular focus of Liam’s practice is in the area of employee benefits and ERISA. Liam specializes in designing pension and executive compensation plans to benefit business owners and executives. His practice includes drafting and reviewing deferred compensation agreements, severance agreements and non-compete agreements, representing employers in multi-employer plan collection and withdrawal liability matters.


Olivia HankinsonOlivia V. Hankinson counsels and advises business owners, managers and human resources professionals on various labor and employment related issues. These often involve concerns which may implicate employment laws including the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Michigan Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the National Labor Relations Act, and the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act. Olivia represents employers with respect to unemployment insurance hearings, MIOSHA violation allegations, EEOC investigations, and other employment law matters. She also drafts employee handbooks, employment agreements, restrictive covenants, and various other employment policies.

Brandi Dobbs Brandi M. Dobbs is an associate at Kerr Russell who supports the business and litigation needs of clients. She focuses on bankruptcy and restructuring. Brandi has successfully guided consumer debtors through Chapter 7 and assisted business debtors through the Chapter 11 process.



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