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Sick leave benefits cut by legislature

Late last month, the Michigan Senate voted to amend paid sick and minimum wage laws that were adopted in September This proposed change to a new employment law that did not take effect would exempt over 160,000 small businesses in the state from providing paid sick leave to their workers.

Opponents of these amendments argue that it would effectively take away paid sick leave guarantees from 55 percent of workers in Michigan. The Senate adopted the amendments to keep the law off the ballot and make it easier to change. The House was expected to quickly vote on these amendments.

The Senate bill would exclude a small business that has fewer than 50 employees. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that there were 162,003 small businesses in the state. These businesses, which included self-employed owners that were exempt under the pre-amended law, employed over one million workers and $38.9 billion in annual payrolls.

The Senate-adopted change would make the Michigan law consistent with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. Under the FMLA, businesses with at least 50 employees must give their workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Michigan's revised law, however, would exempt more small businesses than most paid sick leave laws in 10 other states and Washington, DC.

The Senate amendments would also divide the minimum leave hours that employers would have to give to worker from 72 hours to 36 hours each year and slow down the accrual of benefits from 72 to 36 hours each year. Employees would have to work 40 hours to earn one hour of medical leave, which is a 10-hour increase from the pre-amended law.

Companies could count personal or vacation time as sick time under the amendments. The amended law would also exempt workers at chain stores with fewer than 50 workers and within 75 miles of each other, employees who have less than one year on the job, employees covered under a union contract, in part-time work or in truck-driving and part-time sales.

Workers should seek legal advice when their employment rights are being violated. An attorney can help assure that employers comply with federal and state wage and hour laws.

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