Republicans are trying to pass a bill that would thwart what one lobbyist called a national effort to force businesses to give paid time off for extended family leave.

House Bill 4249, sponsored by State Rep. Earl Poleski, R-Jackson, would create the Employment Leave Uniformity Act, which would ensure that local governments could not mandate that an employer provide leave time that was not required by state or federal law.

The bill has made it out of committee and awaits a vote by the House. 

Charles Owens, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said he’s worried some cities would pass local ordinances that mandate paid extended family leave rules that would hurt businesses.

Michigan is on the radar screen of national organizations attempting to get extended family leave as paid time off and the bills would stop it, Owens said. He said if paid extended family leave laws were enacted, businesses would cut hours and/or raise prices.

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"The citizens bear the brunt of that," he said.

Rebecca LaDuca, an Ann Arbor resident and a member of the activist group, Mothering Justice, testified before a House committee against the legislation.

She said most restaurants, for example, do not provide any kind of paid sick time or accrued sick leave time.

"Accrued sick leave can only benefit business by ensuring increased productivity of workers, establishing a method by which to deal with unexpected illness in terms of staffing, and fewer sick people across all sectors," LaDuca said in an email.

One national organization that opposes the bill said workers can be denied even a single day off due to illness.

"The effort to deny local governments in Michigan the right to establish their own leave laws is part of a misguided and dangerous national effort to undermine democracy and thwart growing support for paid sick days laws — plain and simple," said Vicki Shabo, director of work and family programs at the National Partnership for Women & Families. "Local lawmakers are increasingly recognizing the need for paid sick days, and the widespread benefits of the policy for workers, families, businesses, public health and local economies. Well-funded, special interest opponents have responded by encouraging state lawmakers to prevent localities from implementing this common sense policy. They are seeking to undermine local authority and innovation without offering solutions to the real challenges communities face when workers cannot earn a single paid day off to recover from common illnesses. Michigan lawmakers should see this bill for what it is — an outside and irresponsible attempt to deny Michiganders their rights."

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act states that any employer with 50 or more workers has to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid medical or family leave in any 12 month period. 

In 2002, California passed a law allowing extended disability compensation to employees so they are allowed to take time off to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, parent or domestic partner. It also allows time off for an employee to bond with a new child, or an adopted or foster care child. Employees can get up to 55 percent of their pay for six weeks.

(Editor's note: Every Saturday, Michigan Capitol Confidential brings you a story about a bill being discussed in committee or presented in the Legislature for a vote. For more information on this bill, its sponsor or comments about the bill, go to www.michiganvotes.org.)


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