Traverse City Record-Eagle


April 3, 2013

Bills spark debate over paid sick time in Michigan

LANSING (AP) — Some Michigan Republicans are pushing to ban local governments from requiring employers to provide paid sick leave as cities in other states move to enact such mandates.

Legislation recently approved by committees in the Republican-controlled House and Senate would prohibit counties, townships and cities from adopting policies that requires employers to provide paid or unpaid leave not required under federal or state law.

Republican Rep. Earl Poleski of Jackson, who is sponsoring one of the bills, said paid sick leave mandates hurt businesses by raising administrative costs, putting them at a disadvantage to businesses in areas without such policies. But opponents say a lack of paid sick time unfairly forces workers to choose between their physical and financial health.

“Mothers have to make that decision of whether or not they are going to risk financial stability, be able to make rent or get everyone sick at work or send a sick child to school,” said Danielle Atkinson, director of Mothering Justice, an advocacy group that opposes the bills.

More than 1.5 million Michigan workers — or about 46 percent of the state’s private sector workforce — cannot take paid sick leave, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families, a nonprofit group advocating for workplace fairness. Atkinson said service employees, such as retail and restaurant industry workers, often don’t receive paid sick time.

But Poleski said employers, not local governments, should decide whether workers have paid sick time. He said he does not know of any Michigan cities currently considering such policies, but believes the state should put legislation in place now as policies have recently been passed in cities elsewhere in the U.S.

The New York City Council last week passed a measure to require businesses with 20 or more employees to provide five paid sick days a year beginning in April 2014. Businesses with 15 or more workers would have to do the same by October 2015 and all others would have to provide five unpaid sick days per year.

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