Attorney General: JoAnn Fabrics Not an Essential Service
(State of Michigan, March 31, 2020)
The Michigan Department of Attorney General has denied a request from a well-known craft and hobby retailer that asked the office to agree that its storefronts should remain open during the Stay Home, Stay Safe executive order.
Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office on Monday sent a letter to JoAnn Fabrics indicating the business’s storefront operations should be temporarily suspended while Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s order remains in place. The order was issued to protect the public health and welfare of Michigan residents and reduce person-to-person contact whenever possible due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
“I can appreciate the desire of businesses that want to remain open and provide their customers with the same products and services they have come to expect from these retailers, but there must be common sense protections in place during this global health emergency,” Nessel said. “Employees should be permitted to work from home whenever possible and businesses that are not necessary to sustaining or protecting life should comply with the order by temporarily suspending in-person operations. Reducing person-to-person contact can help slow the spread of COVID-19, and we all need to do our part.”
The company asked the Attorney General’s office to confirm that its on-site operations are necessary to sustain and protect lives because many hospitals and volunteers are turning to JoAnn Fabrics for raw materials to make face masks, face shields and hospital scrubs and gowns.
However, due to the company’s ability to provide these same goods through online sales and by shipping from its stores or distribution centers, keeping the storefronts open to the public is both unnecessary and violative of the executive order.
After receiving the Department’s letter, JoAnn Fabrics stores in the state appear to have modified their business operations to comply.
“I’d like to thank JoAnn Fabrics for its quick response to our letter and for putting the health and safety of Michigan’s residents first in making this decision,” Attorney General Nessel said.
The Attorney General’s office recently added a new section to its website, Know Your Employment Rights, to provide Michigan residents with more information on the legal rights of employees and employers under the executive order.
Additional information for employers can be found on the Guidance for Business page on the state’s website devoted to COVID-19.
A summary of the activities people can and cannot do under the Stay Home, Stay Safe executive order can be found online here.
The state’s COVID-19 website also has information on the Governor’s other executive orders, directives and FAQs which allows for review of each order and its own questions and answers.
Anyone seeking interpretation of an executive order should first review those orders and the FAQs posted online. If an answer is not found, requests for an interpretation of an executive order can be emailed to the Michigan Department of Attorney General. Frequently monitoring the FAQs is recommended as they are updated often.
Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.