MIOSHA investigating Michigan House of Representatives for COVID-19 safety violation complaint

Published: Dec. 8, 2020 at 7:40 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - A state investigation is underway.

The state is looking into reports that House leaders violated COVID-19 safety mandates.

The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) isn’t revealing many details about the complaint, but says it was made by an employee.

Eight representatives have reported confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases- not including staffers.

On Tuesday, the House canceled sessions for Wednesday and Thursday after a staffer reported a positive test.

House Speaker Lee Chatfield says that case was unrelated to the Senate Oversight Committee hearing on election integrity, which featured Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani last Wednesday.

Nevertheless, some lawmakers have been frustrated by how protocols have been managed within the legislature. They are relieved at the possibility that their concerns may now be addressed.

“I am not surprised because I did write an open letter to the speaker. I can’t remember if it was October or November, telling him that I had grave concerns about the workplace that we were being forced to operate in. And that actually we would be looking into possibly filing a complaint with MIOSHA,” said Minority Leader Christine Greig, (D- Farmington).

Greig says she did not file the complaint but does welcome the help.

“We are employees of the state, regardless if we’re elected or not. And we deserve to be able to work in a safe environment,” said Greig.

A big issue has been the inconsistent mask usage amongst lawmakers. Rep. Kara Hope (D- Lansing) says she tried to pass a resolution since April mandating the wearing of masks on the house floor. She says it has been ignored by leadership.

“Leadership in the house has been unwilling to mandate masks for members. It’s required for staff and everybody else around us, but for legislators we’re not required to wear masks. Most of us on the Democratic side and I hate to make it partisan but most of us in my caucus do wear masks. Mask wearing on the other side of the aisle is a little more sporadic,” said Hope.

For that reason, she says she and others feel like they’re putting their health on the line coming into work.

“I think we all are putting our health at risk convening in a place where public health is not being taken seriously. And, you know, it would be one thing if we were prioritizing relief for businesses and individuals affected by COVID, or public health measures or anything like that but we haven’t. We haven’t been prioritizing those things. We’re meeting on other matters, and so that makes it all the more frustrating,” said Hope.

Hope did not submit the complaint but says she doesn’t feel there’s been a lot of transparency in terms of positive cases.

She says Republican leaders have also turned down requests to amend the rules to allow some virtual public meetings.

With this week’s cancelled session, the legislature is down to three scheduled days of legislative session.

Governor Whitmer is still looking for the legislature to approve a $100 million stimulus plan to combat the economic impact of COVID-19 in the state before the end of the year.

MIOSHA cannot provide information on an open investigation. Typically, this kind of investigation may take several weeks or months to complete. The investigation will focus on all employees affected by the complaint items. MIOSHA says they have the authority to issue penalties to all employers in its jurisdiction.

Republican leaders refused to talk about the investigation on Tuesday.

Chatfield’s office said he will release a statement soon.

If MIOSHA decides there was a violation the house could be fined up to $7,000. MIOSHA citations are classified according to the serious nature of an injury that might result if an incident were to occur.

These classifications are:

▶ Willful — A violation committed with an intentional

disregard or plain indifference to the requirements of

MIOSHA regulations or employee safety and health.

▶ Serious — A hazard exists that has a likelihood of

causing serious physical harm or death.

▶ Repeat Serious — A violation of the same rule within

three years (Construction) or five years (General Industry).

▶ Other-than-Serious — A hazard exists and could cause

an injury, but most likely would not result in death or

serious physical harm.

Serious violations must contain a monetary penalty, with

the maximum penalty being $7,000. Any violation classified

as Willful must have a minimum penalty of $5,000, with the

maximum penalty being $70,000.

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