The Michigan Legislature today adopted the paid sick leave and minimum wage ballot proposals, thus removing these issues from the November General Election ballot. The Legislature undertook this step to take back control of implementation of these two important policy initiatives.
The Legislature acted within the 40-day window provided to lawmakers under the Michigan Constitution. If the Legislature had failed to act or rejected one or both of proposals, they would have advanced to the November general election ballot and a full-blown campaign would have ensued. Polling suggests both would have passed by 60 percent or more of the vote.
Mandatory Paid Sick Leave
As adopted, the proposal gives employees one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. All employees (full-time, part-time, temporary workers and independent contractors) would be entitled to use 72 hours in a year. As written, the proposal places severe compliance burdens on employers, including those with paid leave policies currently in place. While many favor the overall policy objective, the current structure of the proposal is a legal landmine, creating an unprecedented rebuttable presumption for adverse personnel actions and numerous avenues for lawsuits, fines and damages.
By adopting the proposed initiative, lawmakers are ensuring that our elected representatives can undertake a full and complete debate of this complex issue. Importantly, legislators will retain the ability to amend the law at a later date with a simple majority vote. (If adopted by voters, any changes require a 3/4ths vote – a near impossible threshold.) As proposed, the paid sick leave initiative takes an all-or-nothing approach. It does not give the people or their elected officials the ability to debate the merits of the policy and draft the policy in a way that works for employees and employers. The Michigan Chamber was part of a large coalition supporting this strategy.
The proposal, as adopted, increases the minimum wage to $12 per hour. It would also increase the wage for tipped employees from $3.52 to 100 percent of the minimum wage by 2024. Under current law, all tipped employees are required to make at least the minimum wage. If their tips plus the tipped employee minimum wage does not equal or exceed the regular minimum wage, the employer must pay any shortfall to the employee.
Like the paid sick leave proposal, the Legislature adopted this initiative to preserve the ability to debate the merits of the proposal and make necessary adjustments to ensure sound policy is implemented. While the Michigan Chamber did not lobby for passage of the minimum wage increase, we recognize that it does accomplish the goal of giving lawmakers the ability to modify the policy in the future to address implementation concerns. As with other ballot measures, any future adjustments would be virtually impossible if approved by the voters in November because of the Constitutional requirement of a 3/4ths vote to amend.
The future of both policies now rests with lawmakers who have promised a thorough review with open debate; something that we wouldn’t have gotten if the proposals had been placed on the ballot. If lawmakers do nothing, the proposals will become law (as written) in March of 2019. This means the next several months are critical. The Michigan Chamber has already begun exploring potential amendments to make the policy more workable for employers and will be pressing lawmakers to act.
Please contact Wendy Block with your thoughts, questions or concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org or (517) 371-7678.