Michigan House Republicans
Neyer bill to protect grieving family farmers from penalties approved by Michigan House
RELEASE|March 7, 2024
Contact: Jerry Neyer

The Michigan House of Representatives on Thursday, Feb. 29 approved legislation that would reduce fines levied against family farms that fail to properly report a workplace death of an immediate family member within the currently required eight-hour window.

The legislation, introduced by state Rep. Jerry Neyer, R-Shepherd, passed with wide bipartisan support. It is the freshman lawmaker’s first bill to make it through the Democrat-controlled House. 

Neyer decided to work on this issue following a 2019 incident in which the owner of a family farm fell through a roof while making repairs on a private barn, which was not even part of the farm operations, and died from his injuries.

The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) requires employers to report any employee workplace death within eight hours. In the 2019 incident, the grieving family did not do that, and the state fined them more than $12,000.

“The intent of the law was to protect employees, but MIOSHA has discretion, and in this case, the state clearly failed to recognize the unique circumstances. They went with a strict interpretation,” Neyer said. “It wasn’t just an employee who died, it was an immediate family member. No one in that kind of situation is going to be thinking about filing paperwork with the state in the first eight hours. They’re going to be in shock. Anyone applying common sense can see that.”

Neyer took a particular interest in the situation because of his firsthand understanding of the issues involved; in addition to being a dairy farmer himself, Neyer also served for more than 20 years on the Isabella County Farm Bureau and the United Dairy Industry of Michigan Board prior to getting elected to the state Legislature in 2022.

“Farming is a hazardous occupation, and this was a tragic situation. I saw it as an opportunity to correct a wrong,” Neyer said.

Under Neyer’s legislation, family farms will still have to report workplace fatalities, but the fines for failing to properly do so within the eight-hour window will be substantially reduced; penalties will be reduced by 80 percent if the family farm does not have any prior violations.

A similar bill was approved by the Legislature last term, but it got vetoed by Gov. Whitmer due to a technical issue. Neyer’s bill fixes that objection by clarifying the definition of a family farm. The bill also makes it clear that this only applies to the loss of an immediate family member.

Neyer said he originally wanted to also extend the reporting deadline from eight hours to seven days, which is a more reasonable timeframe following a sudden death of a family member, but he dropped that part for now due to concerns that making that change could run afoul of federal OSHA rules. Neyer said he plans to work with Congressman John Moolenaar to get that part done next.

“This was a good first step. This will provide some leniency to grieving family members,” Neyer said.

HB 4011 was approved with 93 votes in favor and 13 against. It now goes to the Senate.

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