Michigan Amendments Paid Sick LeaveDepending upon your perspective, Michigan voters were given a big lump of coal or Michigan businesses got an early Christmas present.

Specifically, this week Governor Snyder signed bills to delay and limit the scope of voter-approved ballot measures that would have increased the minimum wage and required employers to provide paid sick time to their employees.

Citizen groups previously collected enough signatures to put the proposals on the November ballot. However, under a procedural mechanism, the Republican-controlled legislature agreed to make the ballot initiatives Michigan law. By doing so, it opened the door for Republicans to amend the initiatives during a lame-duck session.

Again, depending upon your perspective, Republicans gutted the voter-approved employment laws or they saved businesses from job-killing initiatives. Here’s a breakdown of what Michigan voters had approved for the ballot initiatives (on the left) and what the Republican-controlled legislature delivered (on the right):

Voter Approved Ballot Proposals (Public Act 337 of 2018) Adopted by Legislature

Legislative Changes to Adopted Ballot Proposals (SB 1171)

$12 minimum wage

Increases from $9.25 per hour as follows:

  • 1/1/2019:  $10/hour
  • 1/1/2020:  $10.65/hour
  • 1/1/2021:  $11.35/hour
  • 1/1/2022:  $12/hour
  • 1/1/2023:  Increases by the rate of inflation
$12 minimum wage 
Increases from $9.25 per hour as follows:

  • 3/31/2019: $9.45/hour
  • 1/1/2020:  $9.65/hour
  • 1/1/2021:  $9.87/hour
  • 1/1/2022:  $10.10/hour
  • 1/1/2023:  $10.33/hour
  • 1/1/24:  $10.56/hour
  • 1/1/2025:  $10.80/hour
  • 1/1/2026:  $11.04/hour
  • 1/1/2027:  $11.29/hour
  • 1/1/2028:  $11.54/hour
  • 1/1/2029:  $11.79/hour
  • 1/1/2030:  $12.05/hour

The minimum wage would be indexed to the rate of inflation beginning in 2024 (i.e., put on autopilot). Tipped minimum wage tied to the rate of inflation beginning on 1/1/25.

No inflationary increases.
Tipped Minimum Wage 
Increases from $3.52 per hour (38% of the minimum wage) as follows:

  • 1/1/2019:  48%
  • 1/1/2020:  60%
  • 1/1/2021:  70%
  • 1/1/2022:  80%
  • 1/1/2023:  90%
  • 1/1/2024:  100% of the minimum wage
Tipped Minimum Wage*

The minimum wage remains tied to 38% of the regular minimum wage rate.

* Under the law, all tipped employees are guaranteed 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 or face fines and fees.

Governor Snyder also signed into law the amendments that revised the paid sick time ballot proposal that was adopted as law in the lame-duck session. The voter-approved initiative provided for workers to receive one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked up to a maximum of 72 hours a year. This was also adopted as law in the lame-duck session in order to amend it.

The amendments (SB 1175) reduced the ballot proposal to one hour for every 35 hours worked and capped the maximum at 40 hours per year. Governor Snyder also signed this into law late Thursday.

Legal Challenges on the Horizon?

So essentially, the people – or enough of them to get it on the ballot where it was expected to pass – said one thing, and their government said, thanks but no thanks, we’ll take it from here.

But the Detroit Free Press reported that organizers of the ballot initiatives would sue in response to the above circumstances. In this regard, they argue what the Republican legislature did was unlawful under Michigan law. This is because there is a 1964 legal opinion (written by the Michigan Attorney General Frank Kelley) that specifically addresses the current situation. In response to a legislator’s question in 1964 about the new constitution, Kelley wrote that the legislature could not amend an adopted initiative law in the same legislative session.

I think it is likely there will be a legal challenge to the above amendments. Whether the 1964 legal opinion or other arguments will carry the day is anyone’s guess.