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Publications | December 13, 2023
2 minute read

Michigan Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument on the Fate of Minimum Wage and Earned Sick-time Laws

The Michigan Supreme Court recently heard oral argument in Mothering Justice v. Attorney General, a case that could affect the bottom line of nearly every employer, and have severe financial consequences for small businesses and the tipping industry, as we discussed in our July 2022 webinar “A Return to the Earned Sick Time Act and Improved Workforce Opportunity Wage Act as Originally Adopted.”

The plaintiffs argued that the legislature unconstitutionally amended minimum wage and earned sick time laws adopted two months earlier through a ballot initiative, claiming the legislature had to wait until the next legislative session, one month later. If the amendments are held invalid, the courts must grapple with whether and how the original (unamended) increases in minimum wages and earned sick time benefits would go into effect.

The Court of Appeals in January 2023 held the amendments were constitutional, leaving existing wage and earned sick time law in place. That opinion is discussed in greater detail here.

Gaëtan Gerville-Réache, a partner in Warner Norcross + Judd’s Appellate and Supreme Court Practice Group, argued before the seven justices on behalf of the Michigan Manufacturers Association, asking the court to affirm the Court of Appeals’ decision. He argued that once the legislature had enacted the proposed law, no constitutional provision said or implied that the legislature could not immediately enact an amendment to that law, and such a rule should not be judicially created. If the amendment was unpopular, the constitution already provided an immediate solution: a petition for referendum. Furthermore, he argued that regardless of how the court resolved the underlying issue, it would be unjust to impose any liability on employers for the minimum wages and sick leave not paid because of the legislature’s actions.

Notably, this was Gerville-Réache’s 10th time presenting an oral argument before the Michigan Supreme Court in the last six years. LAW360 published the recent article “Mich. Justices Weigh Effect of Ending Wage, Sick Leave Laws,” featuring Gerville-Réache’s argument to the court.

For more information about this case or for labor and employment legal counsel and representation, please contact Gaëtan Gerville-Réache or a member of Warner’s Labor and Employment Practice Group.