UPDATE ON THE PAID MEDICAL LEAVE ACT
On January 26, 2023, the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed the prior Court of Claims decision requiring employers to provide a new minimum wage for employees and requiring small employers to provide paid sick leave for employees. Because of this decision, the old minimum wage and the prior Paid Medical Leave Act are now in effect.
Currently, the minimum wage for employees in Michigan is $10.10 per hour. Given that the Court of Appeals reversed the Court of Claims decision, the new minimum wage of $12.00 per hour is no longer required.
Under the Paid Medical Leave Act, only employers with fifty or more employees are required to provide 40 hours of paid sick leave to employees. This paid sick leave accrues at a rate of one hour for every 40 hours worked. Employees that are part-time or temporary do not qualify for paid sick time.
The parties have stated that an appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court is likely. We will keep you posted on new developments.
PROPOSED UPDATES TO THE ELLIOT-LARSEN CIVIL RIGHTS ACT
On January 12, 2023, a bill was introduced to amend the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA) to expand the current discrimination protections and provide more inclusive language within the bill. The proposed amendment prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity or expression.
Under the amendment “sexual orientation” would be defined as having an orientation for heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality or having a history of such an orientation or being identified with such an orientation. “Gender identity or expression” would mean having or being perceived as having gender-related self-identity or expression regardless of an individual’s assigned sex at birth.
Currently, ELCRA prohibits discriminatory practices, policies, and customs in employment, public accommodations and services, educational facilities, housing, and real estate based on religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, or marital status. Prior to this amendment, individuals risked having their claim dismissed solely because ELCRA’s prohibition of sex discrimination didn’t encompass sexual orientation.
However, in 2018, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission (MCRC) issued a statement that discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity falls within the scope of discrimination based on sex. In 2022, the Michigan Supreme Court used the MCRC language to hold that discrimination based on sexual orientation constitutes discrimination based on sex (Rouch World, LLC v. Department of Civil Rights). The bill would simply adopt this language and explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. The bill would take effect in 90 days and have no fiscal impact on State or local governments.
LGBTQ AND TITLE IX
A recent case out of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals shows the Court attempting to balance the religious rights of employees and the rights of members of the LGBTQ community. Meriwether v. Hartop, 992 F.3d 492 (6th Cir. 2021), involved a clash between a university professor’s right to free-speech and the exercise of his religious beliefs; and a policy by the university to call transgender students by their preferred pronouns. A complaint with the Title IX office of the university resulted in a finding that the professor’s refusal to call students by their preferred pronouns created a hostile environment in violation of the university’s policy against discrimination on the basis of gender identity. The Sixth Circuit held that the university had violated the professor’s First Amendment right of free speech and that the university exhibited a hostility to the professor’s religious beliefs. A close reading of the opinion, however, reveals that the Title IX investigation was defective and this played a big part in the Court’s opinion. Although Title IX proceedings are not as formal as those required when litigating a case in federal court, the failure of these investigations to provide minimal due process to the accused has led to several adverse decisions by the Sixth Circuit. Maybe it is time for Title IX proceedings to be conducted with more procedural safeguards for the accused so that Title IX victims do not have to see their claims denied on appeal.
NEW ASSOCIATE ANNOUNCEMENT
I am excited to announce that Veronica Stachurski has joined the firm as a part-time associate. She is already licensed in Minnesota, and is currently awaiting results from the February Michigan bar exam.
Ms. Stachurski is available for legal research and brief writing (at both trial and appellate level) on a contractual basis. Ms. Stachurski has developed great legal research and brief writing skills, including working for two non-profit organizations, as well as, working as a research consultant for a criminal defense team at the International Criminal Court.
Please contact us if you’d like Ms. Stachurski’s contact information, or if you’d like any additional information about our firm.
HOW COVID-19 MAY IMPACT YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS
New federal and state statutes concerning protections against wrongful discharge as a result of
COVID-19 were made law in 2020. The federal government has passed several laws regarding the novel Coronavirus, including the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), under which the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) was enacted. The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA) was also enacted under FFCRA, which amends Title I of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This is in addition to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) act, which amends certain provisions of the EPSLA and amended provisions added by the EFMLEA.
Agencies like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Department of Labor have published materials interpreting these new statutes, and how they may affect rights under other statutes, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act. Our office is knowledgable about all these federal and state laws. We specialize in representing current and former employees pursuing their legal rights, and welcome inquiries regarding possible representation.
UPDATE CONCERNING THE LAW OFFICES OF LISA C. WARD, PLLC
We will be open for business on June 8, 2020, as per the Governor’s recent executive order. However in order to be safe, we have made a few important changes. We require that anyone entering the Law Offices Of Lisa C. Ward, PLLC wear a face mask and practice social distancing. We have created a COVID-19 work plan that is available to anyone visiting our office. If you have any questions about the opening of our office, please contact us.
June 12, 2018: In spite of the recent Supreme Court decision in Masterpiece Bakeshop Ltd., the Sixth Circuit has recently reaffirmed that LGBTQ individuals are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes case, the Court held that terminating an employee because that employee was going to transition from male to female was unlawful discrimination on the basis of sex in violation of Title VII.
June 6, 2017: The Ingham County Prosecutor has decided to go forward on the criminal sexual assault case involving three MSU student athletes. Although the criminal prosecution is important, the victim should consider a civil lawsuit against these three football players. In the event the perpetrators are allowed to plead to lesser charges, the victim can still have her day in court.
September 2, 2015: California judge permits Uber-drivers to maintain lawsuit against Uber in which they claim that they were wrongfully classified as independent contractors, as opposed to employees. While this case is proceeding under California state law, there could be implications for Uber-drivers under other states’ respective minimum wage laws and possibly a suit under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.
July 1, 2015: The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the National Labor Relations Board had jurisdiction over an Indian tribe’s operation of a casino on tribal land based on earlier precedent. In other words, employees of casinos on tribal land are entitled to all of the protections of the NLRA, including the right to organize.
Given that the Sixth Circuit’s reluctance to rely on earlier precedent, this case will likely be appealed to the Supreme Court when it returns for the fall term.
June 26, 2015: In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down Michigan’s (and all other states’) ban on same-sex marriage, basing its decision on due process, equal protection and privacy grounds. Justice Kennedy delivered the majority opinion of the Court.
However, the LGBT fight is far from over. In Michigan, there are still no protections for LGBT members under the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. Meaning, an employer can terminate a LGBT member without any recourse under the law. At this point, it is impossible to tell what effect the Supreme Court’s decision will have on this statute.
May 26, 2015: Law Offices of Lisa C. Ward, PLLC settled a Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) case in the Eastern District Court of Michigan on behalf of former employee for the City of Brighton. The plaintiff alleged, in part, that he was terminated in retaliation for exercising his rights under the FMLA after his wife started to experience serious health issues. The case was settled before trial.