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AG's Office Warns Menards About Business Practices During COVID-19 Outbreak

LANSING – The Michigan Department of Attorney General on Tuesday sent a letter to Menards following reports that the company’s stores have been engaging in business practices which might endanger the health of customers and employees during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, including marketing and sales practices designed to increase customer presence in Menards stores.

The letter demands that Menards cease any and all activities that run contrary to the spirit and intent of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Stay Home, Stay Safe executive order. The Stay Home, Stay Safe order requires businesses to temporarily limit or suspend on-site operations to only those necessary to sustain or protect life. In turn, the number of workers on-site should be reduced to only those needed to perform those specific operations. Attorney General Dana Nessel issued a video on the subject.

“The current climate should not be viewed through the lens of business opportunism where dollars drive decisions over the good of the public’s health,” said Nessel.  “We have asked that Menards cease any and all practices that run contrary to the spirit and intent of the Governor’s Stay Home, Stay Safe Order, including marketing sales to draw large numbers of the general public into their stores for non-emergency purposes.”

Though Menards is currently allowed to remain open to the public to supply goods that fall under certain provisions of the executive order, its business operations are restricted by other limitations in the order. Menards, and other similar home improvement stores, are only allowed to supply goods to the general public that are “necessary to maintain and improve the safety, sanitation and essential operations of a residence,” and should have as few employees as needed to support those sales.

This is the second time Menards has been called out by Attorney General Nessel’s team for potential violations of Governor Whitmer’s Executive Orders.  Nessel’s Consumer Protection team sent a cease and desist letter to Menards on March 17 warning them against price-gouging practices. The company responded with a public apology related to its sale of face masks, but the issues raised in the cease-and-desist letter remain a topic of ongoing discussions with Menards.

Willful violations of the Stay Home, Stay Safe executive order can result in a $500 fine and/or 90 days in jail for each offense. Violations should be reported to law enforcement agencies overseeing the jurisdiction in which the alleged offense occurred.

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.