To all Forward employees,

As you may know, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed an executive order to expand eligibility for unemployment benefits during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

The executive order is effective immediately until Tuesday, April 14 at 11:59 p.m., according to Whitmer’s office.

Under the governor’s order, unemployment benefits would be extended to eligible employees as follows:

  • Workers who have an unanticipated family care responsibility, including those who have childcare responsibilities due to school closures, or those who are forced to care for loved ones who become ill.
  • Workers who are sick, quarantined, or immunocompromised and who do not have access to paid family and medical leave or are laid off.

So what does this mean to you? We have been asked by a number of our staff what our plans are going forward. Listed below are some possible scenarios:

  • If a portion of the business closes for any reason (i.e. restaurants closed due to government mandate, i.e. LumberJack closing or Subway operating hours reduced due to closure of instore dining) employees can file for unemployment benefits.
  • If there is a reduction in force due to business conditions (hotels or TR McTaggart has slow business) employees can file for unemployment benefits.
  • If an employee is off work due to testing positive for the Coronavirus, the employee can file for unemployment benefits. The employee may also choose to use PTO. If an employee has a positive Coronavirus test and provides documentation that they are ineligible for unemployment benefts, we will pay your average hours for up to two weeks until May 1st, 2020.
  • If an employee is off work due to the waiting period when being tested for the Coronavirus, the employee will need to take PTO or time off without pay unless they are told they can return to work by their doctor, in which case they may.
  • If an employee is off work because they aren’t feeling well due to their own personal illness such as the flu or a cold, the employee will need to take PTO or time without pay.
  • If an employee is off work because they have an immunocompromised system, they will need to request a doctor note showing this. The employee may apply for unemployment but – we have been told by different unemployment staff that this doctor note may or may not help the employee qualify for unemployment. At this time, the Governor has not given specific direction to the Unemployment Agency, therefore, it is up for interpretation. We are also told that things could be further defined in the coming days and weeks.
  • If an employee is off work because of any other reason, they will need to request a leave of absence and can take PTO or time without pay.

Additionally, we have waived the requirement in our Employee Handbook to use your PTO before applying for unemployment. This is a one time waiver effective until May 1st, 2020. This means that you can immediately apply for unemployment.

We have also elected to pay both the employee and employer share of the health insurance premium for employees that have been laid off until May 1st, 2020.

Please note, Forward does not approve or deny any employee’s unemployment benefits. These decisions are solely made by the Michigan-State Unemployment Agency. There are specific wage qualifications you will need to meet to be eligible to draw unemployment. For more information, please go to

As we all are seeing, things continue to change daily – sometimes even hourly. We are doing our very best to keep track of these changes and communicate them with you. We will continue to watch and update you as we learn more.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Human Resources. As always, please stay safe and know we care very much about you and your families.


Tina Hutchinson
Human Resources Director