Hiring your first few employees is a major milestone. And while it's an exciting time, it can also be stressful to navigate the rules that regulate employment in the United States-- trust us, there are a lot of them.
From health benefits and sexual harassment laws to payroll taxes, there's a lot to keep track of. And these are all complicated further depending on the type of employee hired. For instance, employing college students means extra regulations governing insurance; a frequently overlooked law in this area is Michelle's Law.
Never heard of it before? Plenty of people haven’t, but every small business owner should understand it so they can make sure their business isn’t inadvertently breaking the law. Here’s everything you need to know to understand the basics of Michelle’s Law.
Michelle’s Law essentially governs medical leave for college students. After George W. Bush signed it into federal law in October 2009, it’s required that college students are allowed to take up to 12 months of medical leave from both school and work.
The law was inspired in 2006 by a student at Plymouth State University named Michelle. While in school, she was diagnosed with colon cancer which, in her case, meant chemotherapy treatments. Because of the intensity of the treatments, Michelle’s doctor recommended that she cut back her course load, but that created a problem for Michelle.
At the time, her insurance was tied to her status as a full-time student. Michelle couldn't cut back her classes, or she'd lose the status of full-time student, which would mean losing her insurance or paying hefty COBRA premiums. Unable to make these payments, her mom took the issue to the New Hampshire legislature, which passed what became known as Michelle’s Law. Ten other states eventually passed some version of the law before it became federally mandated.
It's important to note that Michelle’s Law not only applies to college students, but high school students as well. It may affect employees differently if they're still covered by their parents' medical insurance. Lastly, medical leave can mean complete absence or a reduced course load; the date that leave begins is determined by the student’s physician, not their employer or school institution.