Our Michigan Legislature will be returning to work the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. The session between then and the end of the year is what is called the Lame Duck Session. Lame Duck is a term used in politics that refers to elected officials whose successor has already been elected so they have less influence because they only have a limited time left serving. Though that sounds a bit depressing, the flip side of the coin is a lame duck is free to do things without much fear of consequence.
Earlier this fall the GOP controlled Michigan House and Senate passed two laws that was unexpected for a pro-business legislature to do. They did this for very political reasons. Ballot initiatives were on their way to the election ballot to raise Michigan’s minimum wage to $12/hr. and to implement mandated paid time off for worker sickness. If voted in by the electorate, these laws would take a 2/3rds majority to amend. This was a stretch at the time for even the GOP controlled House, Senate, and Executive branch to do. This approach now seems very prescient given next year the Michigan Executive Branch goes Democratic. But as legislatively passed laws, they only require a majority to amend and of course the Governor to sign. So far so good.
Though some other legislative issues may be addressed during the Michigan Lame Duck session, the Minimum Wage and Paid Time Off laws are setting up to be the big issue. Proponents of these laws are vigilantly monitoring what opponents of the laws in the legislature are doing. Supporters of these laws know that the GOP pro-business legislature will take action. Supporters have said they will initiate a legal challenge based upon their position that the Michigan Constitution does not allow lame duck legislative action to change ballot initiative bills.
So far, two amending bills were introduced subsequent to passage that mitigate certain aspects of the laws but really do not curb them as much as would be expected or is needed from a pro-business legislature. One bill (SB1171) seeks to restore the tip credit for servers. The other bill (SB 1175) would amend the paid sick leave law to put in a rebuttable presumption that an employer has violated the act if they took adverse action against an employee for filing a complaint about the paid sick leave act. Not much of a change to this very expensive new law.
The Michigan Manufacturers Association (MMA), Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM), and Michigan Chamber of Commerce all oppose these laws and will be working to have them amended or in the case of the paid time off legislation, repealed.
Now is the time employers should be contacting their state representatives to communicate that most employers provide paid time off for sickness or injury to their employees. ASE’s 2017/2018 Michigan Policies and Benefits Survey found 31.4% of employers already provide an affordable Paid Time Off (PTO) Benefit for their employees to use for a number of purposes including sick and personal time off and another 48.6% offer paid Sick/Personal Day benefits separately. The average number of a Sick/Personal Days Off benefit provides is seven per year. Though most employers provide this benefit, if this law is allowed to go into effect, it will mandate that all employers, regardless of their size and means, will have to offer paid time off. A very expensive law for many employers.
ASE members should review their paid time off and sick/personal day benefits to determine what this law may cost them. Small employers that do not have paid time off benefits due to cost should be taking action and contacting their legislators to let them know how this new law would affect them.
Sources: SBAM Resources page, MMA Advocacy page, Michigan Chamber of Commerce web pages