Ask The Lawyer, Mandatory Sick Pay in Michigan?


QUESTION: An employee who was out with the flu for three days says I have to pay her, because a new law requires employers to pay for sick time. I already give everyone five days paid time off each year (which this worker had already used) and all the major holidays. Am I supposed to be giving them more days off?

ANSWER: The quick answer is “No.” In fact, for a Michigan employer, your holiday/PTO package is generous. Michigan does not require private employers to give workers any paid days off, except time for military service, jury duty, or time required for a “serious medical condition” or the birth of a child under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) – and that only applies to businesses with at least 50 employees.

Only 16 states (and the District of Columbia) have laws requiring private employers to give workers sick days as a form of time off. Only 11 states have statewide laws requiring paid sick days: Connecticut, California, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont, Arizona, Washington, Rhode Island, Maryland and New Jersey. Mandatory paid sick time is limited to one or two large metropolitan areas in Illinois, Texas, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey. Even the states that require employers to offer sick days allow some exemptions. Connecticut’s law, for example, does not apply to employers with few than 50 employees, to salaried workers, or to certain nonprofits.

However, the issue of paid sick time is perennially before state and federal lawmakers. A year ago, the Michigan legislature presented a bill that would require all employers to allow workers to earn paid sick days — time off that could also be used for situations like a work of school closure. The bill was referred to the Commerce Committee, where it has remained. A similar bill was defeated in 2016. The group MI Time to Care hopes to have a similar proposal for earned sick time on the ballot this year. The proposal would require Michigan businesses to provide employers with one hour of earned sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours per year.

While most Americans do get some paid time off every year, either through a collective bargaining agreement, a contract, or an employer’s decision to offer time off as a matter of policy, as a nation we lag behind the rest of the world. Workers in the European Union get at least four weeks of paid vacation, by law. Canadians get at least two weeks’ vacation. According to Wikipedia, the United States is the ONLY country that does not require any paid leave.

Although the U.S. doesn’t favor paid time off, federal and state laws do require employers to give unpaid leave in several circumstances. If you want to make sure your employment policies meet all federal and state requirements, you may want to talk to a lawyer.

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