In March, Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), a new federal law providing emergency paid leave to covered workers for certain COVID-related purposes. Last month, in response to an action by the New York Attorney General’s office, the Southern District of New York issued a decision striking down several elements of the US Department of Labor’s regulations issued under the FFCRA. Recently, the Department of Labor issued new revised regulations, which make several changes in response to the court’s decision, along with corresponding updates to the frequently asked questions. These new regulations will become effective immediately upon their formal publication in the Federal Register, expected to occur on February 16.
Last week, Michigan lawmakers passed an inclusive earned paid sick time law giving nearly 2 million hard working Michiganders the right to take time off to care for themselves or their families. Michigan joins 10 states and 34 jurisdictions that have passed similar measures in recent years, including four others in 2018—the state of New Jersey; Duluth, MN; and San Antonio and Austin, TX . Momentum is building.
The Michigan law is excellent in many respects. Along with 11 other cities and states, Michigan defines “family member” broadly in its paid sick time law to ensure that workers have the right to care for chosen family, or close loved ones who do not share a biological or legal relationship. A Better Balance, together with our partners at Family Values @ Work, have been leading an effort around the country to define family more realistically in our laws and policies. We are thrilled to see such progress on this issue. As a result, families of all types—LGBTQ families, multi-generational and immigrant families, military families, and more—will be able to better care for their loved ones.
The Michigan law also recognizes that all workers need paid sick time, and, joining a national trend that includes paid sick time laws passed during the last few months in New Jersey and Austin, TX, covers all workers regardless of the size of the business in which they work. Moreover, as in many similar laws around the country, Michigan’s policy also includes “safe time,” which allows workers to use earned sick time to address legal and safety issues when the worker or a family member has been a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault. Once the law goes into effect in March 2019, workers employed by larger employers (10 or more workers) will be able to earn up to 72 hours of paid sick and safe time, while those employed in smaller businesses can earn up to 40 hours of paid and 32 hours of unpaid sick and safe time.
A Better Balance was honored to support the Michigan effort through bill drafting, legal research, and other technical support. We have provided the same support for most of the paid sick time laws in effect around the country and we continue to work closely with advocates currently trying to enact similar measures in other states and cities.
We congratulate the tremendous effort of our partners in the Michigan Time to Care coalition, Mothering Justice, and the many families who publicly shared their stories. But the fight is not over and advocates must protect Michigan’s new law from legislative attacks. Because the measure was passed by the legislature and not by voters, lawmakers could weaken the law with a simple majority during the up-coming lame-duck legislative session. A Better Balance will continue to support local groups as they work to ensure the law is protected and working families across Michigan are able to use their hard-earned paid sick time.
We’re just getting started. In the coming year, A Better Balance will build on the momentum of Michigan’s victory—and the strength of the policy—in other cities and states. As new legislative sessions gear up, we are ready to provide assistance on paid leave campaigns in every corner of the country. We won’t stop until every worker and every family is covered by inclusive earned paid sick time policies.