Five Stories That Matter in Michigan This Week – October 27, 2023

  1. EEOC Publishes Proposed Harassment Guidance

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently published its long-anticipated proposed guidance on “Enforcement Guidance of Harassment in the Workplace.” Among other things, the guidance reflects the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2020 Bostock decision, which extends the meaning of “sex” in Title VII to sexual orientation and gender identity; provides that sex-based discrimination includes harassment based on pregnancy, childbirth, and other related medical conditions, such as conception or abortion; and addresses how electronic communication (including social media) can create a hostile work environment.

Why it Matters: The proposed guidance seeks to clarify and address uncertainties and open questions for employers. The opportunity for public comment is available until November 1, 2023.


  1. Provisional Patent Application Overview

While deciding whether to file a patent application, it is important to consider both your short- and long-term goals in view of your finances and the current state of your idea. Depending on these factors you may be deciding between filing a provisional or non-provisional application.

Why it Matters: A provisional patent application is a type of patent application that serves as a placeholder for a non-provisional patent application, providing the applicant with a priority date for their invention and a one-year window to follow up and file a non-provisional application. Learn more from your Fraser Trebilcock attorney.


  1. Governor Whitmer Signs Bills Permitting State and Tribal Cannabis Businesses to Engage in Commerce with Each Other

The landscape of the cannabis industry in Michigan continues to evolve as new legislative efforts in Michigan aim to bridge the operational divide between state-licensed cannabis enterprises and tribal cannabis businesses. Two pivotal bills, Senate Bill 179 and Senate Bill 180, were signed by Governor Whitmer on October 19, 2023, creating a collaborative business environment for these formerly siloed entities.

Why it Matters: Prior to the legislation being enacted, state-licensed and tribal cannabis operations in Michigan functioned independently, restrained from mutual commerce and collaboration, including prohibitions on cannabis products being sold between these businesses. The new legislation allows these two distinct parts of the cannabis industry to interact.


  1. UAW and Ford Announce Tentative Deal

It was announced earlier this week that the United Auto Workers (UAW) and Ford Motor Company reached a tentative deal.

Why it Matters: The tentative deal would give workers an immediate 11% raise, a 25% increase in wages over the next four years, a reinstatement of cost-of-living adjustments, and additional benefits.


  1. Client Update: Corporate Transparency Act Report of Beneficial Ownership Information

Pursuant to the Corporate Transparency Act of 2021, beginning on January 1, 2024, most newly formed entities will be required to report to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network information (FinCEN) about the identity of the entity’s beneficial owners and senior officers. And by the end of 2024, nearly all companies will have to report.

Why it Matters: There are roughly 1 million entities in good standing in the State of Michigan and at some time in 2024, most will need to make a beneficial ownership report to FinCEN. While there are numerous exemptions available, their application is limited to large enterprises and businesses that operate in industries that are already highly regulated. Therefore, it is important to remember that the reporting requirement will extend hundreds of thousands of entities. Learn more.

Related Practice Groups and Professionals

Labor, Employment & Civil Rights | David Houston
Intellectual Property | Andrew Martin
Cannabis Law | Sean Gallagher
Business & Tax | Robert Burgee

Five Stories that Matter in Michigan This Week – June 10, 2022

Five Stories that Matter in Michigan This Week – June 10, 2022; Legal, Legislative, and Regulatory Insights

  1. Wayne County Announces $54 Million Fund for Small Businesses

A new $54 million fund to support small businesses, called the Wayne County Small Business Hub, was announced at last week’s Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference (“Mackinac Conference”). It will provide support to new and existing businesses, with a specific focus on minority- or women-owned businesses, and micro businesses with 10 or fewer employees with a focus on technical assistance.

Why it Matters: Small businesses are often the first to be hit when the economy slows, and with credit markets tightening there are likely to be fewer sources of liquidity for small business owners to tap. This new fund, a collaboration between the Wayne County Executive’s Office and New Economy Initiative, will provide needed resources for historically disadvantaged businesses.


  1. Ford and Pfizer to Make Significant Investments in Michigan

Also at the Mackinac Conference, Ford Motor Company and Pfizer announced significant investments in Michigan. Ford reportedly will spend $2 billion across the company’s Michigan plants, and intends to create more than 3,000 jobs. Pfizer will make a $120 million investment at its Kalamazoo facility.

Why it Matters: With a great deal of economic doom and gloom in the headlines, these announcements are bright spots showing that large companies are still making investments in their businesses—and in Michigan, in particular.


  1. Concerns Expressed About Losing Another EV Investment in Michigan

But it’s not all good news on the economic front in Michigan. At the Mackinac Conference, John Rakolta Jr., chairman of Walbridge, pointed out that Michigan is missing out on major opportunities in the electric vehicle industry. For example, Stellantis announced last week that it was bypassing Michigan and locating its new electric vehicle battery manufacturing plant in Kokomo, Indiana.

Why it Matters: According to a study by Fortune Business Insights, the global electric vehicle market is expected to grow from approximately $287 billion in 2021, to $1.3 trillion by 2028. To take advantage of this opportunity, Michigan must make itself attractive to companies in the electric vehicle market. As Rakolta points out, this involves more than designing tax incentives. It requires a more comprehensive approach to utilities, zoning and other important business, financial,  legal and regulatory issues.


  1. Unemployment Claimants Get to Keep Pandemic Overpayments

Michigan sought to claw back Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits paid to many Michigan residents who were accused of misreporting their income. Michigan argued that claimants were liable because they entered their gross pay from prior years to determine their weekly benefit amount when they should have entered their net pay. Michigan reversed course and announced that it would no longer seek to claw back the funds after media reports revealed that at least some claimants were asked during the application process to provide total pay—not net pay—which resulted in confusion and overpayments.

Why it Matters: This announcement surely came as a relief to many Michigan residents who were embroiled in disputes with the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency. More broadly, this situation demonstrates the importance of using precise, accurate language in contracts and other important documents. The alternative is to invite confusion, dispute and litigation.


  1. Michigan Cannabis Company Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

A Kalamazoo cannabis company, Master Equity Group,  recently filed for  Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Western District of Michigan.

Why it Matters: This case will be closely watched by the cannabis industry, as well as by corporate restructuring professionals. Bankruptcy courts have historically prevented cannabis companies from filing for protection under the United States Bankruptcy Code because, while marijuana is legal in Michigan, it remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act. And because bankruptcy courts are federal courts, similar attempts by cannabis companies to file for bankruptcy protection have been disallowed.

Related Practice Groups and Professionals

Administrative & Regulatory | Michael Ashton
Business & Tax  | Mark Kellogg
Labor, Employment & Civil Rights | Aaron Davis
Cannabis | Klint Kesto