News Story

Court Rejects Whitmer’s Effort To Impose Severe Lockdown Penalties On Businesses

‘There is simply no room ... for adding additional penalties’

The Michigan Court of Claims has rejected Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s effort to impose harsher penalties on businesses that fail to comply with her executive orders concerning the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several county sheriffs had stated publicly they would not enforce provisions of the executive orders. The governor subsequently ordered the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or MIOSHA, to impose penalties on individuals or businesses that violate her emergency orders. MIOSHA penalties are authorized by a state workplace safety law, not by a state emergency powers law.

By using the MIOSHA law, Whitmer also, in effect, increased the penalities that businesses could face for violating her executive orders. Those include fines as high as $70,000 and up to three years in prison. The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation filed a lawsuit against this action.

On June 4, the Michigan Court of Claims ordered the governor to stop using the MIOSHA law to enforce her COVID-19 related directives. The penalties for violating an executive order are instead limited to a maximum of a $500 fine and 90 days in jail.

The Court of Appeals wrote, “There is simply no room within the unambiguous statutory language for adding additional penalties, let alone incorporating different, and more severe, penalties from a separate statutory scheme such as the felony charges and increased fines set forth in MIOSHA.”

It is uncertain whether or when the governor will appeal the ruling.