State Plays Hard Ball With Virus Control Fines
Lots of business owners around the state are looking over their shoulders. They’re concerned about whether state investigators are targeting them for COVID-19 virus control fines. From the perspective of Governor Gretchen Whitmer, that’s how she wants it. From the business perspective, the question develops about how to balance managing a business with what many believe are draconian if not confusing orders from the Governor. The state closed out last week by imposing thousands of dollars in fines against a half dozen businesses. They are accused by state investigators of failing to protect employees from the virus. And the state does not plan to stop there. These fines and licensing measures are what’s described as the initial round of citations as regulators confront what they claim is a huge increase in safety complaints. Many of the complaints are the direct result of the state prompting residents to snitch on businesses. Some people are complaining about their own employers.
The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration is accusing the companies of things like allowing employees to work near each other without masks. Other charges include failing to conduct daily health screenings. For some, their COVID-19 safety plan didn’t meet the state’s standards. One of the businesses being fined is a fitness center in Saginaw which opened in defiance of the Governor's shutdown orders. The others range from mortgage lender United Shore Financial Services in Pontiac, to a UPS distribution facility in Livonia, a Speedway gas station in Waterford, residential contractor Dan Freed in Eaton Rapids, and Hills Roofing in Niles. Fines range from a little over $2,00 to as much as $7,000. The state claims it’s getting harder to keep up with infraction complaints. It’s getting more than 30 a day. In June, a State Court of Claims judge in June ruled that the Democratic governor’s coronavirus-related workplace orders included excessive penalties for employers in violation because they are governed by emergency laws that allow for lesser penalties that amount to a 90-day misdemeanor and a $500 fine. So the state switched to using what’s known as a “general duty” clause. That requires employers to furnish a workplace that is free of hazards.