The Michigan House today approved state Rep. Bronna Kahle’s plan to protect family farmers from burdensome fines that result from a little-known and insensitive Michigan law.
Under current law, if a fatality happens on a family farm and the family does not report it to the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) in just eight hours, the family faces thousands of dollars in fines.
Kahle was alerted about the issue by E.G.A. Inc., a family farm located in Blissfield Township, after owner Keith Eisenmann died in November of 2019.
“While grieving the loss of their beloved family member who was killed in a tragic accident on his own property, the Eisenmann family was penalized for failing to report the fatality within a mere eight hours,” Kahle said. “It is a cruel and insensitive expectation that a family should think of calling a bureaucratic agency to report the death of a loved one within hours of such a heartbreaking and life-altering event.”
Kahle’s legislation would reduce the fine by 95 percent for families like the Eisenmann’s if not reported within the required timeframe.
Barbara Eisenmann, Keith’s wife, received the massive fine after her husband’s death, along with Keith’s brother, Zell Eisenmann, who co-owned the farm with him. Zell said the fine is a major struggle for their family business.
“We understand it’s important for employees to be protected in the workplace,” Zell said when testifying before the House Agriculture Committee earlier in the year. “However, small family farms and large business corporations should not be compared as equal entities. The total fine that was levied against us exceeded our payroll for the year.”
Barbara said the fine only adds to the grief and heartbreak she has endured over the past year.
“We couldn’t even begin to think about reporting Keith’s death in the midst of the trauma we were experiencing,” Barbara said. “We feel changes need to be made to the definition of entity as well as financial penalties and reporting times. We want to thank Rep. Kahle for working to protect our small family farm from excessive fines that can cause the undue stress and financial hardship we experienced following Keith’s accident.”
The legislation, House Bill 4031, now advances to the Senate for consideration.
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