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On January 26, 2023, in the long-awaited opinion in Mothering Justice v. Attorney
General, a three-judge panel of the Michigan Court of
Appeals ruled, in a 3–0 opinion, that the Michigan Paid
Medical Leave Act (PMLA) and Michigan Improved Workforce
Opportunity Wage Act, as implemented in March 2019, will remain in
place. Although we anticipate an appeal to the Michigan Supreme
Court will follow, employers can breathe a sigh of relief for now.
No changes to existing state-mandated paid medical leave or
increase to minimum wages need to be made.
By way of background, on July 19, 2022, the Michigan Court of
Claims held that the “adopt-and-amend” strategy the
Michigan Legislature used to enact an amended version of the Improved
Workforce Opportunity Wage Act and PMLA was unconstitutional. As a
result of this ruling, Michigan’s minimum wage would have
increased immediately to $12 per hour. The ruling would have also
immediately and significantly changed employer obligations under
the PMLA by expanding the scope of employers required to provide
paid medical leave, the scope of employees entitled to paid medical
leave, and also would have increased the annual amount of paid
medical leave for certain employers from forty to seventy-two
hours. It would have also brought back the “private cause of
action” contained in the original initiative, allowing
employees to pursue claims against their employers in court for
However, on July 29, 2022, the Michigan Court of Claims issued a stay of its July 19, 2022, decision.
The stay delayed the changes and an appeal to the Michigan Court of
Appeals ensued. As the stay was set to expire on February 19, 2023,
employers have been eagerly anticipating the instant ruling and
contemplating how to revise their paid medical leave policies.
The Court of Appeals’ Opinion
Before turning to its decision, the Michigan Court of Appeals
emphasized that its conclusions were based on the Michigan
Constitution and precedents rather than whether the legislation was
good public policy. The Court of Appeals ultimately concluded that
the legislature did not exceed its powers because:
- After the legislature timely acted within forty session days of
receiving the petitions, it adopted the proposed laws in their
- Once enacted as law, these public acts were “on the same
footing as all other legislation” passed by the legislature
and could be subject to amendment at any time, including
during the same legislative session.
- The plain text of the state constitution only precludes the
legislature from amending referendums in the same session,
not initiated laws. There was no explicit language restricting
amendments of law during the same session.
- Statements from the record of the constitutional convention in
1962 indicated that once the legislature adopts a petition, it has
full control to “‘amend it and do anything they see
The Court of Appeals also specifically noted the main purpose of
the initiative—”to provide the people with an avenue to
force the Legislature to address a subject that the people felt
needed to be addressed”—was accomplished. And, the
legislature, in amending the proposals, “continued to address
those issues with all the legislators’ constituents’
interests in mind.” Thus, the Court of Appeals held that the
legislature was not prohibited from adopting and amending the laws
in the same session, granted the state’s motion, and dismissed
the appeal with the opinion to have immediate effect.
What Is Next?
For now, employers can stay the course and continue to provide
paid medical leave in accordance with the Paid Medical Leave Act,
which went into effect in March 2019, and maintain the minimum wage
at $10.10 per hour. However, as an appeal is expected, employers
may want to keep an eye on this case for any further
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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