Foster Swift Municipal Law News E-blast
January 13, 2021
Governor Whitmer has announced that the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has extended its existing emergency order to continue to combat the spread of COVID-19. The order, which has been in place since November 18, 2020, has been extended until February 1, 2021. In general, the order strictly limits the size of gatherings and requires employees to work from home if their work can be performed remotely.
Gatherings and Public Meetings
The order expressly prohibits any indoor gathering at a non-residential venue (subject to certain exceptions) and limits any outdoor gathering to the fewer of 25 persons or 20 persons per 1,000 square feet. MDHHS has published guidance stating that public meetings and board meetings are only permissible if the meeting is outdoors and has fewer than 25 persons (or 20 persons per 1,000 square feet) in attendance.
Public meetings should continue to be held virtually utilizing an electronic platform such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams. The platform must allow for two-way communications between the members of the public and the members of the public body. Meetings must be properly noticed; this includes publishing the notice on the public body’s website’s homepage at least 18 hours before the meeting is scheduled. The notice should also include an explanation why the public body is meeting electronically, how the members of the public, including persons with disabilities, are able to participate, and how to contact directly the members of the public body. The meeting agenda must be posted online at least two hours before the meeting begins.
Each member of the public body must make a public announcement, to be included in the minutes, that he or she is attending remotely. The member must also specify the county, city, township, or village where the member is physically located.
All employers, including municipalities and other public bodies, should have a policy prohibiting in-person work for employees to the extent that such employees can feasibly work remotely. Productivity and cost concerns are not justifications for allowing an employee to work in-person.
Office workers and administrators can likely work remotely. Workers that cannot work from home likely include first responders, public works employees, and employees whose work requires interaction with the public or access to public records.
The work-from-home policy may be included in your COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan or as a separate document.
Please contact your Foster Swift attorney or a member of our Municipal Practice Group for more information on how to properly notice and conduct a virtual meeting or for assistance with drafting a work-from-home policy.
For questions or assistance related to COVID-19, contact a member of Foster Swift’s Coronavirus Task Force: