Michigan’s Republicans seek to rescind minimum wage and sick pay laws Michigan’s Republicans seek to rescind minimum wage and sick pay laws

Michigan’s Republicans seek to rescind minimum wage and sick pay laws
04 Dec 2018

Michigan’s Republican lawmakers are working hard to scale back the US state’s newly-passed minimum wage and paid sick leave laws before they leave office in December.

Both laws were initially conceived under a state constitutional provision that enables citizens to propose legislation if they can collect at least 252,523 valid signatures. If lawmakers adopt the proposal, it becomes law. If they do not, the decision goes to voters across the state.

The Republican-dominated state Legislature chose to adopt both Bills with the clear intention of amending them rather than sending them to the ballot in November. Adopting citizen-initiated Bills allows the Legislature to change them later by a simple majority vote.

A number of changes to both laws have already been proposed and more are likely to follow. One Fair Wage’s Pete Vargas said his group was urging state legislators to uphold Michigan’s constitution by voting 'no', WSJM reported.

Danielle Atkinson, chair of MI Time to Care, told Michigan Radio: “It’s a complete disappointment that the Senate has changed what would have been a very inclusive earned sick time policy to one that has very little benefit for the majority of people that need it.”

The new minimum wage legislation, if left unchanged, would increase the state minimum from US$9.25 to US$10 per hour beginning in 2019. The wage would then rise every year between 2019 and 2022 until it hit US$12 per hour, before going up every subsequent year after that based on inflation.

Of particular concern to employers, especially in the restaurant industry, is that the law also increases the amount that tipped workers are entitled to until they receive the same minimum wage as other workers. The legislation was put forward by the Michigan One Fair Wage ballot committee.

The paid sick leave law allows workers to accrue paid sick time both for themselves and to care for family members. Under the law as passed, employees would earn at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 72 hours per year. Workers in small companies could use up to 40 hours of paid sick leave each year and 32 additional hours of unpaid leave.

But Senator Dave Hildenbrand is sponsoring a Bill that would change the minimum wage law to preserve what is known in the restaurant industry as a tip credit, Bridge reported. Currently, employers are only obliged to pay tipped workers 38% of the minimum wage, or US$3.52 an hour, although the difference must be made up if their total pay falls under US$9.25 an hour.

The law as it is currently written will gradually increase the lower tipped wage until tipped workers receive the same full minimum wage as other employees, even though they will still be allowed to collect tips. But Hildenbrand’s Bill would cancel that increase.

Meanwhile, another Bill, sponsored by incoming Senate majority leader Mike Shirkey, would remove a “rebuttable presumption” in the new paid sick leave legislation that presumes employers violate the law if they take negative action against employees under the Act. It also would reduce the length of time employers are required to keep records on the number of hours employees have worked and taken sick leave.

Emma Woollacott

Emma Woollacott is a freelance business journalist. Her work has appeared in a wide range of publications, including the Guardian, the Times, Forbes and the BBC.

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Michigan’s Republican lawmakers are working hard to scale back the US state’s newly-passed minimum wage and paid sick leave laws before they leave office in December.

Both laws were initially conceived under a state constitutional provision that enables citizens to propose legislation if they can collect at least 252,523 valid signatures. If lawmakers adopt the proposal, it becomes law. If they do not, the decision goes to voters across the state.

The Republican-dominated state Legislature chose to adopt both Bills with the clear intention of amending them rather than sending them to the ballot in November. Adopting citizen-initiated Bills allows the Legislature to change them later by a simple majority vote.

A number of changes to both laws have already been proposed and more are likely to follow. One Fair Wage’s Pete Vargas said his group was urging state legislators to uphold Michigan’s constitution by voting 'no', WSJM reported.

Danielle Atkinson, chair of MI Time to Care, told Michigan Radio: “It’s a complete disappointment that the Senate has changed what would have been a very inclusive earned sick time policy to one that has very little benefit for the majority of people that need it.”

The new minimum wage legislation, if left unchanged, would increase the state minimum from US$9.25 to US$10 per hour beginning in 2019. The wage would then rise every year between 2019 and 2022 until it hit US$12 per hour, before going up every subsequent year after that based on inflation.

Of particular concern to employers, especially in the restaurant industry, is that the law also increases the amount that tipped workers are entitled to until they receive the same minimum wage as other workers. The legislation was put forward by the Michigan One Fair Wage ballot committee.

The paid sick leave law allows workers to accrue paid sick time both for themselves and to care for family members. Under the law as passed, employees would earn at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 72 hours per year. Workers in small companies could use up to 40 hours of paid sick leave each year and 32 additional hours of unpaid leave.

But Senator Dave Hildenbrand is sponsoring a Bill that would change the minimum wage law to preserve what is known in the restaurant industry as a tip credit, Bridge reported. Currently, employers are only obliged to pay tipped workers 38% of the minimum wage, or US$3.52 an hour, although the difference must be made up if their total pay falls under US$9.25 an hour.

The law as it is currently written will gradually increase the lower tipped wage until tipped workers receive the same full minimum wage as other employees, even though they will still be allowed to collect tips. But Hildenbrand’s Bill would cancel that increase.

Meanwhile, another Bill, sponsored by incoming Senate majority leader Mike Shirkey, would remove a “rebuttable presumption” in the new paid sick leave legislation that presumes employers violate the law if they take negative action against employees under the Act. It also would reduce the length of time employers are required to keep records on the number of hours employees have worked and taken sick leave.

Emma Woollacott

Emma Woollacott is a freelance business journalist. Her work has appeared in a wide range of publications, including the Guardian, the Times, Forbes and the BBC.

OTHER ARTICLES THAT MAY INTEREST YOU

Austin think-tank sues city to block new paid sick leave law

How much paid leave should global employers provide?

Texas Appeals Court blocks sick leave Ordinance for Austin's workers

 

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