Worker advocates are calling on the Michigan House of Representatives to amend a bill that ties unemployment benefits to strong legal protections for businesses in cases related to COVID-19.
Senate Bill 886 would extend unemployment benefits that were previously provided under one of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders.
Those would make it harder for workers who got sick with COVID-19 on the job to sue their employers for negligence.
For that reason, Representative Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia) and worker advocates would like to see the provision removed during Tuesday’s House session, when the bill is expected to go to a vote.
“We are talking about giving bad actors, who have not done their due diligence to keep their employees safe, immunity from the repercussions and consequences of those actions,” Rep. Pohutsky said during a Zoom call with reporters organized by Michigan United.
Rachael Kohl, who directs the Workers' Rights Clinic at the University of Michigan law school, was also on the call.
She says the Legislature’s short-term goal should be to amend SB 886 and extend the unemployment benefits.
“But beyond that, there’s also a long-term goal,” she said. “Michigan is incredibly behind when it comes to the unemployment benefits that are offered in this state.”
For example, she says it’s difficult to collect unemployment for people who’ve quit their job due to worries about COVID.