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The Michigan Saga Continues: The Constitutional Validity of the New Michigan Paid Medical Leave Act and New Minimum Wage Law Heads to the Michigan Supreme Court

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The Michigan Saga Continues: The Constitutional Validity of the New Michigan Paid Medical Leave Act and New Minimum Wage Law Heads to the Michigan Supreme Court

This past summer, two voter initiatives were headed to the November ballot for consideration. One initiative was to increase the state minimum wage, and the other was to create a state law requiring most employers to provide employees with paid sick leave. However, before such initiatives could appear on the ballot for voter consideration, in September 2018 the Michigan Legislature seized its constitutional right to enact those initiatives on its own, thereby keeping the initiatives off the ballot. Now, the Michigan Supreme Court will have the last word on whether the initiatives were properly enacted in their current form.

As legislatively enacted laws (as opposed to laws adopted via voter referendum), future amendments would only require a simple majority vote of each house. If the laws had been adopted by the voters, however, then a super-majority vote of 75 percent in each house would have been required to amend the laws. Thus, by adopting the initiatives as legislation, the Legislature intended to retain its traditional control over the laws’ futures.

Shortly after the November election, the lame-duck Legislature took advantage of the opportunity to amend before a change in Governor. In doing so, the Legislature comprehensively modified both laws—the Improved Workforce Opportunity Wage Act and the Paid Medical Leave ActThose amended laws went into effect on March 29, 2019. Normally, that would be the end of the story.

A state constitutional challenge has been raised, though, questioning whether the Legislature may amend an adopted initiative in the same legislative session as the adoption. The challenge may trigger yet another hurdle should it prevail since employers have already conformed to the amended versions of the laws. Thus, it is at least theoretically possible that the original versions of the laws will resurface and employers will have to scramble to comply.

To resolve the legal issues, the Legislature is seeking a ruling from the Michigan Supreme Court as to the constitutionality of the December iterations of the laws. Last week the Supreme Court has announced that it will hear oral arguments on issue on July 17, 2019. In the meantime, employers should stay the course and comply with the Act as amended, at least until a ruling from the court dictates otherwise.