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Victory: Michigan Court Restores Workers’ Full Rights to Paid Sick Time

A Michigan judge has ruled to protect the state's paid sick leave and minimum wage ballot initiatives, marking a victory for workers' rights. Once the decision takes effect in February 2023, workers in Michigan will have their full right to paid sick time restored.
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Last week, a judge in Michigan issued a strong ruling that restored the full right to earned paid sick time to workers across the State, despite the Legislature’s desperate efforts to silence Michigan voters by attempting to weaken the protections afforded by the law. 

In 2017, we were proud to work with the Michigan Time to Care Coalition to help research and draft a ballot initiative that would guarantee earned paid sick time to all workers in the State. After organizing and collecting signatures across Michigan, the proposed initiative qualified for the 2018 ballot. Under Michigan law, the Legislature has two choices once a proposed initiative qualifies for the ballot: it must either adopt the initiative as written or send it to voters. Despite its legal obligations, the Michigan Legislature adopted the initiative—along with an initiative to raise Michigan’s minimum wage—rather than send it to voters, with the declared intent to significantly weaken the laws after the 2018 election. 

This “adopt and amend” scheme significantly weakened the State’s paid sick leave law; in addition to leaving out millions of workers, the Legislature reduced the purposes for leave, narrowed the law’s family definition, cut the amount of available paid sick time, and weakened the law’s protections against retaliation. In 2019, we joined our partners in Michigan and submitted an amicus brief to the Michigan Supreme Court requesting that they rule against the Legislature’s “adopt and amend” actions. Although the State Supreme Court declined to issue an advisory opinion on the matter, it left the question open for future litigation, as in the current lawsuit.

A judge has now ruled that the Legislature violated Michigan law by adopting and amending the earned paid sick leave and minimum wage ballot initiatives in the same legislative session, thwarting the ballot initiative power reserved to the people in the Michigan Constitution. Although the ruling will be appealed and face ongoing litigation, this decision is reason to celebrate. The Court has ruled that the decision will not take effect until after February 19, 2023, in order to give state agencies and employers time to prepare for the changes to Michigan’s law. Once it takes effect, the Court’s ruling will extend or strengthen the right to earned paid sick time to workers across the State, leading to improved public health and greater financial security for working families; it will also increase the minimum wage in Michigan to $12/hour (from $9.87/hour) and eliminate the sub-minimum tipped wage for service workers.

We will continue to share updates on the lawsuit’s appeal as well as developing information on the paid sick leave rights of Michigan workers. In the meantime, we congratulate Mothering Justice, the Michigan Chapter of ROC United, and the entire MI Time to Care Coalition on this tremendous win and their years of work to ensure Michigan is a fair and healthy place to work.

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