Builders lawsuit challenges Gretchen Whitmer’s work rules

Builders lawsuit challenges Gretchen Whitmer's work rules



Memorial Day destinations around Washington DC are promoting new ways to honor fallen soldiers during the holiday while restricting in-person visits to keep staff and the public safe during the coronavirus pandemic. (May 22)

AP Domestic

A group representing builders and contractors in Michigan has filed a lawsuit against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s orders requiring them to take actions to protect workers from the spread of coronavirus, saying they are unconstitutional and exceed her authority.

It argues that they are now subject to potentially enormous fines if they violate the orders, even though those fines were never authorized by the state Legislature under laws giving the governor authority to respond to emergencies or approved through the state’s regulatory process.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday in the state Court of Claims on behalf of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan (ABC), which represents some 900 builders, and a private landscaping company in Grand Rapids. The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation in Midland, which takes on cases of what it considers government overreach, also is involved in the lawsuit.

Neither Whitmer’s office nor the state attorney general immediately responded to the lawsuit. On Thursday, a lawsuit filed by the Republican-led state Legislature, challenging Whitmer’s authority to extend a state of emergency over their refusal to do so in response to the coronavirus pandemic, was dismissed by Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens, though an appeal is likely.

ABC State Director Jeff Wiggins said Whitmer’s rule “threatens the safe jobs of Michigan workers” and that his organization and their members “deserve to have a voice in the rules process.”

More: Judge tosses Legislature’s lawsuit over Gov. Whitmer’s emergency powers

More: Poll: Michigan voters show support for Gov. Whitmer’s handling of coronavirus

More: Rural communities without a hospital struggle to fight rising coronavirus cases, deaths

“Instead, they are threatened by the arbitrary, unclear and unconstitutional enforcement methods set to be dispatched throughout the state to intimidate good, honest workers,” he said.

Under recent orders issued by Whitmer, construction work and landscaping are allowed in Michigan, while many other businesses are closed or severely restricted. But they are required to take steps to protect workers, such as taking employees’ temperatures, creating dedicated entries to work sites, requiring gloves, limiting the sharing of tools and more as a way to stop the spread of the virus, also known as COVID-19.

But while state law makes violation of a governor’s emergency order a misdemeanor — potentially punishable by a $500 fine and 90 days in jail — in her orders, including one issued as recently as Thursday, she said violation of the work rules could be considered a violation of Michigan Occupational Safety and Health regulations.

Those are potentially punishable by fines of up to $70,000 a day for a company in willful violation.

“Not only is the governor increasing penalties without legislative approval, she is also transferring enforcement power from local elected officials, such as sheriffs and prosecutors, to unelected bureaucrats under her control,” the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation said in a news release.

The lawsuit asks for an immediate court judgment overturning the orders.

Contact Todd Spangler at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @tsspangler. Read more on Michigan politics and sign up for our elections newsletter.

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