The Flint Journal “Ask the Attorney” Column
Q. I have been ill, and am missing time from work. Is my employer supposed to pay me something while I am off work? (Aug 2015)
A. Michigan employers are not currently legally required to provide any sick pay to workers for nonoccupational conditions. Some employers voluntarily establish limited sickpay or disability benefit plans with eligibility rules employers must then follow. Some unions have successfully negotiated such benefits through collective bargaining. For most medical conditions, if work caused, aggravated, contributed to or accelerated the condition, Michigan law provides potentially lifetime weekly workers’ compensation benefits up to $1048/week tax free to most workers. A petition is currently being circulated by Michigan Democrats to put language on the ballot in November to enact a law that would require most employers to provide 40-72 hours of paid sick leave each year to full-time workers. While some workers can receive disability pay for months or years, it would only seem fair that workers generally ought to be eligible for at least a few days of disability pay (like the 5 to 9 days provided in this proposal.) Most employers recognize it is in their interest that employees stay home when they are really sick, and not spread illness to others. You should support the ballot initiative and check with your employer, or union if you have one, to see what sick pay is available at your company. If your medical problems are work-related, you should contact me for assistance in securing workers’ compensation, which nearly always pays more than most other types of disability benefits.
–Attorney Robert J. MacDonald
2021 Postscript: Michigan Republicans engaged in legal shenanigans to keep the mandatory paid sick leave petition off of the ballot. A less generous version of the Democrats’ proposal became law instead in Michigan’s Paid Medical Leave Act, 2018 PA 338. Workers under the law generally earn an hour of paid sick time for 35 hours worked, up to a total of 40 hours.