Advance Notice: Briefs

Nessel says she isn’t the proper defendant for minimum wage, paid sick leave lawsuit

By: - June 8, 2021 10:57 am
Dana Nessel

Attorney General Dana Nessel | Andrew Roth

Updated, 9:05 p.m., 6/8/21 with additional comments

Attorney General Dana Nessel filed a motion Monday in response to a lawsuit that aims for an increase in the state’s minimum wage and appropriate paid sick time, arguing that she isn’t the right defendant for the suit.

The lawsuit, Mothering Justice, et al v Nessel, challenges the constitutionality of two laws that were passed by the Legislature in 2018 related to a minimum wage ballot initiative, led by the Michigan One Fair Wage coalition, and the Paid Sick Leave Act, an initiative to mandate sick leave for workers.

Instead of making it to the ballot in 2018, the initiative petitions were instead adopted and amended by the GOP-led Legislature.

The legality of the Legislature’s use of the “adopt and amend” procedure was upheld in an opinion by former Attorney General Bill Schuette and ultimately heard by the Michigan Supreme Court in 2019.

The Supreme Court asked the Attorney General to establish a conflict wall and appoint two sets of attorneys from the office to argue both sides of the issue. 

Nessel joined the side of her office that argued that the process and the new laws were unconstitutional, however the Supreme Court declined to issue an advisory opinion. 

“I believe the actions undertaken by the Republican Legislature to adopt and then gut the substance of the One Fair Wage and Paid Sick Leave Act were unconstitutional and undermined the will of Michigan residents,” Nessel said.

Now, the constitutionality of the two laws are up for question again.

Nessel is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, but she states that she is not the proper defendant and has filed a motion to dismiss on that basis. 

“The Attorney General agrees with the policy arguments set forth in the Complaint. The plaintiffs are correct to point out that the Legislature performed an unconstitutional end-run around the initiative process in its lame-duck “adopt and amend” gambit,” the brief stated.

Mark Brewer, the plaintiffs’ attorney, says now is time for Nessel to stop “dodging responsibility for her inaction.”

“When people think that the attorney general is wrong, the attorney general is the proper party to sue,” Brewer said. “And frankly, the opinion that Nessel is defending is the problem here … And she’s done nothing in the two and half years she’s been in office to fix this problem of adopt and amend. And so millions of workers out there don’t have a minimum wage increase and don’t have paid sick time because she’s done nothing.”


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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue covers education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.