What could Michigan’s new proposed House Bill mean for employers and supervisors?

Watching the news recently I saw that Michigan State University was fined $4.5 Million for failing to protect the victims in the Larry Nassar case and it got me thinking, I wonder what laws may be changed because of this?

In June of 2019, the criminal case involving Larry Nassar prompted Michigan House Representatives to pass House Bill 4374. For those of you not familiar with the Larry Nassar case, Larry Nassar was a former sports doctor who was sentenced to a great deal of time in prison for numerous counts of criminal sexual conduct while working for Michigan State University and the United States Gymnastics team. Because of his actions while working for the university, House Bill 4374 was proposed and passed in the Michigan House of Representatives.
This bill amends Michigan Compiled Law (MCL 750.483a) to include “a person shall not use his or her professional position of authority over another person to prevent or attempt to prevent the person from reporting a crime listed in section 136b, 520b, 520c, 520d, 520e, or 520g, that is committed or attempted by another person.” By doing so the person is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by one year or a fine of not more than $1,000, or both.

The sections include:

Section 136b being child abuse, 520b criminal sexual conduct in the first degree, 520c criminal sexual conduct in the second degree, 520d criminal sexual conduct in the third degree, 520e criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree, and 520g being assault with intent to commit criminal sexual conduct.

What could this proposed House Bill mean in the criminal defense world?

I have an inkling that many cases involving any sort of criminal sexual conduct or child abuse, there could be a spike in these sort of allegations in the days to come. With the possibility of placing a portion of the fault on a person holding a professional position of authority, employers, and supervisors within companies particularly should be cautious. Here’s why, there are already laws for mandated reporters, however until this bill there was no law made specifically for the other average blue collar or white collar workforces. For those of you that may not be aware, mandated reporters are persons such as: Social workers, nurses, school teachers, regulated child care providers, police officer, etc. Mandated reporters are just as the title states, they are by law required to report such instances of suspected abuse or neglect to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHS). The above list however does not include such persons who hold titles as general manager, assistant manager, team leader, or supervisor. Yes, I know these are vague titles that apply to a plethora of companies and work forces. This is why the above House Bill 4374 is something that needs to be paid special attention to.

Companies with employees holding these tiles may want to incorporate the requirements of the House Bill in their training and policies, if they do not already. Additionally, companies should develop new standards for reporting cases specifically involving the crimes listed and what procedures to take if they encounter a person with professional authority preventing or attempting to prevent those crimes from being reported.

The days of “turning a blind eye” is a thing of the past and we may soon become a community with an abundance of reports being made based on fear alone and not fact. The reality with this is simply that with these kind of accusations being made there comes the possibility of an increase in filing of false police reports or intentionally causing a false police report to be filed. Also, it is a crime in Michigan to file a false report of a criminal act. The penalty for the false crime reported determines the penalty for the reporting of that false crime. In short if a person were to knowingly report a felony, such as Criminal Sexual Conduct Third Degree (MCL 750.520d), they could face felony charges.

While House Bill 4374 has not been enacted into law, there could be some big changes ahead for people who are determined to hold a professional position of authority, businesses, and employers. The good news is that as these changes take effect our law firm is here and eager to help as always.

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