Nemeth Law partner breaks down Michigan’s new paid medical leave law

March 19, 2019
Detroit, Michigan

Effective March 29, eligible employees start to accrue ‘paid sick leave’

Keeping Michigan employers on their toes, a flurry of legislative activity at the end of last year resulted in changes to several employment practices for 2019, including how much mandatory paid time off employers need to give to employees and the accepted parameters on the use of that time. Terry Bonnette, a partner with Detroit-based management-side employment and labor law firm, Nemeth Law, P.C., explained that with the passage of the Paid Medical Leave Act (PMLA), employers with at least 50 employees in the state of Michigan are now required to allow most hourly employees to accrue and use available paid medical leave for themselves or eligible family members, effective March 29.

“Under the provisions of the new law, employers will grant greater flexibility to eligible employees for time off to care for themselves or a loved one without being penalized,” Bonnette said. “The law is designed to cover time off for an eligible employee’s (or covered family member’s) mental or physical illness, injury or health condition, including preventative care. The law also permits time to be used when an employee or covered family member is a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault in order to obtain legal services or participate in related legal proceedings; and during the occurrence of a closure of the eligible employee’s child’s school or place of care due to a public health emergency.”

Bonnette said the new law defines an ‘eligible employee’ as a person for whom the employer is required to withhold federal income tax, although there are a number of exceptions. Those exceptions include:

  • Most employees who are exempt from overtime requirements under the FLSA
  • Those who are covered by a collective bargaining agreement, so long as they are not employed by a public agency
  • Those employed for 25 weeks or fewer in a calendar year for a job scheduled 25 weeks or fewer
  • Certain variable hour employees
  • Those who, on average, worked less than 25 hours per week in the preceding calendar year

Covered family members include the eligible employee’s children, step-children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, siblings or spouse, but not an employee’s in-laws or fiancé.

Bonnette detailed how employers can be compliant with the new law:

  • Employers provide one hour of medical leave for every 35 hours worked—with a maximum of 40 hours accrued per year;
  • Employers may allow time to carry over from year-to-year, but the accrual cap of 40 hours remains;
  • Employers are able to “front load” 40 hours of accrued time at the beginning of a benefit year, and subsequently, that does not need to carry over;
  • Employers must keep their records for one year;
  • Employers can start accrual time for the employee when the law becomes effective on March 29 or when the employee begins employment—whichever is later;
  • Although new employees will begin to accrue paid leave on the first day of employment, employers may require employees to wait 90 days after beginning employment before using any accrued time off;
  • Employees may a use the time in one-hour increments, unless the employer has a different policy in writing;
  • The default for requesting leave is the employer’s usual and customary procedure for notice, and documentation (as long as the employee has three days to provide medical documentation);
  • Employers must display a poster from the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) outlining this information. LARA will provide the posters free-of-charge to companies prior to the effective date. “An employer’s current paid time off policy may already satisfy the new law’s requirements as long as employees have the same amount of paid leave and can use that paid time off for the purposes outlined in the new law,” Bonnette said. “For employers who already had some form of paid medical leave written into their policies, the adjustments will most likely be minimal. Other employers may have to create new policies or re-work current practices to ensure they are in compliance with the law.”

About Nemeth Law, P.C.

Nemeth Law specializes in arbitration, mediation, workplace investigations, employment litigation, traditional labor law and management consultation/training for private and public sector employers. It is the largest woman-owned law firm in Michigan to exclusively represent management in the prevention, resolution and litigation of labor and employment disputes.