State Supreme Court Declines to Weigh in on Legislative Tactic to Amend Paid Sick Leave Law

On December 18, 2019, the Michigan Supreme Court issued a 4-3 ruling that denied the state legislature’s request for advice on whether lawmakers are allowed to adopt ballot initiatives headed to voters (including one concerning paid sick leave) and then change them after election day. The court denied this request because it believed that it lacked jurisdiction to provide such advice, since there wasn’t a lawsuit alleging an “actual controversy.”

As reported in October 3, 2018, and January 8, 2019, editions of Compliance Corner, the state legislature adopted the initiative petition creating an Earned Sick Time Act on September 5, 2018, enacting it as Public Act 338 of 2018. On December 13, 2018, Gov. Snyder approved Public Act 369 of 2018 that amended Public Act 338’s provisions prior to its effective date (March 29, 2019). If the legislature had not adopted the initiative petition, and the voters approved it in a state-wide vote, then the law could only be amended with a three-quarters vote in the legislature. By adopting the petition, the legislature needed only a simple majority to amend it.

Since the state’s Office of Attorney General had issued conflicting opinions about the legality of this “adopt-and-amend” practice, the legislature asked the court to provide an authoritative opinion.

As reported previously in Compliance Corner, the new law revises the original law's provisions by exempting more employers, lowering the leave accrual and use requirements, and repealing employees' ability to sue employers for violations.

Specifically, among other things, the bill would amend the Earned Sick Time Act to do all of the following:

  • Rename the act the Paid Medical Leave Act.
  • Lower the number of hours that could generally be accrued from 72 to 40, and provide that an eligible employee could accrue one hour for every 35 hours worked, instead of one for every 30.
  • Limit the application of the law to employers with 50 or more employees.
  • Eliminate relatives of a domestic partner from the list of qualifying family members for whom the employee could use paid medical leave time.

For the time being, the Paid Medical Leave Act, as adopted and amended, stands. Employers with employees residing in Michigan should comply with it. However, an actual lawsuit challenging the law is a real possibility so employers should keep an eye on legal developments.

Public Act 369 »
Michigan Supreme Court Opinion »