In a nutshell:
- In September, the legislature enacted a citizen-initiated law requiring employers to provide paid sick time to all employees, effectively keeping it off the November ballot.
- Since, the legislature has signaled its intent to amend the law in the post-election lame duck session before it takes effect in April.
- As it stands, Michigan’s nascent law provides generous sick time benefits and defines employees and family members broadly when compared to other state laws.
A citizen-initiated law requiring employers to provide paid sick time to all employees was passed by the Michigan legislature in September. It takes effect in April 2019. This law was enacted by a Republican-led legislature at the urging of the business community in order to keep it from being passed by voters at the ballot box. If it had gone to voters and passed, it would have been very difficult to amend, requiring a supermajority in both houses. As is, it can be amended by a simple majority.
Since the November election, attention has turned to the upcoming lame duck legislative session in Lansing. While the session agenda is still taking shape (and likely to remain fluid throughout), policymakers have signaled their intent to revisit the recently enacted paid sick time law. What specific changes they are are contemplating remains an open question.
A look at those states with similar laws shows that Michigan’s is quite generous and may be over-reaching; lawmakers might want to reshape it to bring it more in line with what other states do.
Paid sick time in Michigan
Michigan’s law provides up to 72 hours of paid sick time (40 hours paid and 32 unpaid for small businesses with fewer than 10 employees) for all employees, other than those who work for the federal government. It’s important to remember that Michigan’s law covers all types of employees – part-time, per diem and temporary. This is not the case in other states.
The Michigan law allows paid sick time to be used for many purposes – employees’ and family members’ health care needs, services required due to domestic violence or sexual assault, some types of school meetings, and closures due to public health emergencies. It also defines family members quite broadly.
How does Michigan’s law compare to other states?
Michigan is now the 11th state with a paid sick time law on the books. A quick comparison of Michigan’s law with similar statutes in other states shows that the it provides broad, generous benefits to workers.
Most other state laws cap levels of paid sick time at 24 to 40 hours, with the Maryland law allowing employees 64 hours (still lower than Michigan’s 72 hours). Every other state with a similar law exempts more types of employees than the Michigan law does. Some states, like Connecticut, exempt many types of employees and employers (e.g., employers with fewer than 50 workers and employees of 68 enumerated service occupations, among others). Other states, like Arizona, exempt few employees (state and federal employees).
Some states (Arizona, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington) allow for broad uses of paid sick time similar to the Michigan law; others (California, Connecticut, Maryland, and Massachusetts) place more limits on its use. Similarly, some state laws define family members broadly as Michigan’s does; others define family members more narrowly (e.g., Connecticut law limits family members to spouse and children).
What’s next in Michigan?
It is impossible to say for sure when and how this law will be amended, but reviewing other state laws suggests that Michigan’s could be revised to temper some of its far-reaching benefits and bring it more in line with what other states do. (One bill already introduced would reduce record-keeping requirements for employers.)
This may include limiting the amount of paid leave employers are required to provide to 40 hours or less, bringing it closer to the other states. It may also include exempting more types of employees from the law, including part-time, per diem, seasonal, or others. The law could be amended to limit its uses; every other state with a similar law allows sick time to be used for health care reasons and reasons related to domestic violence or sexual assault, but some states limit it to these uses. Finally, some states limit family members to closer relations (e.g., parent-child relations, limiting the use of paid sick time for grandparents, siblings or other more distant relatives).
While it is true that Michigan’s nascent law provides generous benefits, it is also true that amending citizen-initiated legislation in the same lame-duck legislative session is uncharted and raises concerns about subverting the will of the people (though, to be fair, the issue was never voted on).