• HB 6186, drafted by the late Rep. Isaac Robinson (D-Detroit), would require employers to have a business-related “just cause” to fire workers past their probationary period
  • HB 6187 would specifically shield employees from retaliation for wearing additional personal protective equipment such as masks
  • Employees would also have an enforceable right to advocate for better protective equipment

LANSING, Mich., — Democratic Floor Leader Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor) introduced two bills on Wednesday that would empower workers by ending “at-will” employment and protecting the right to wear personal protective equipment on the job.

“Workers are facing a dual economic and public health crisis unlike anything in living memory,” Rep. Rabhi said. “This Labor Day, we can do more than just mouth praises for the essential workers in harm’s way. We need to put real power back into the hands of every worker in Michigan. These bills will free workers from the fear of being fired because they wear a mask to protect themselves and others, or based on an employer’s arbitrary whim.”

House Bill 6187 would prohibit employees from taking action against workers for wearing their own protective equipment if it is as protective or more protective than the equipment provided by the employer. At the height of the coronavirus pandemic in Southeast Michigan, nurses at a regional medical center were not allowed to wear their own N95 respirators, even though their employer was not providing them to all nurses working with coronavirus patients. Employers would still have a duty to provide and fit equipment to protect workers from hazards. Employees would also have the right to advocate for better protective equipment without retaliation.

House Bill 6186 would protect workers by requiring employers to have a business-related just cause for terminating an employee who is past their probationary period. Under the current “at-will” system, employers can fire any employee for any reason, with a few exceptions such as those provided by nondiscrimination laws and collective bargaining agreements. HB 6186 would allow wrongfully discharged employees to recover compensation for lost wages and benefits by filing a complaint with LARA’s Wage and Hour Division or by bringing suit.

HB 6186 is based on a draft originally requested by Rep. Isaac Robinson (D-Detroit), whose death at age 44 this March was presumed to be the result of coronavirus infection.

“I had great respect for Rep. Robinson as a friend and as an advocate for the people,” Rep. Rabhi said. “We have a fitting opportunity to honor his memory by passing this bill, which would improve the lives of millions of workers across our state.”