Once upon a time, the majority party created a bill called "The Healthy Working Families Act." It's always difficult to know what a bill actually does, j
udging just by its title. Indeed, the title of a bill is often in direct contradiction to the actual effect of a bill (witness the "Open" transportation bill discussed above).
What this bill wants to do is ensure that
who holds any kind of a job, gets sick leave, at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked
Sounds good, doesn't it
Here's the rub.
, in listening to and reading testimony and talking with the people lobbing with signs in favor of the bill, I have yet to discover one person with a
full time job who does NOT have sick leave (or "personal leave" that is even more generous).
In fact, there are already so many laws mandating various kinds of employee benefits on the books in federal and state law, that it's hard to see how a business could fail to offer such leave. Among these, are:
Maryland Wage Payment & Collection Law
Maryland Wage & Hour Law
Adoption Leave Law
Deployment Leave Law
The Healthy Retail Employee Act
he Maryland Occupational Safety & Health Act
The MD Flexible Leave Act
Unemployment Compensation and withholding laws
The Job Applicant Fairness Act
User name & password privacy protection act
Minimum wage and Overtime laws
Equal pay law
Employment Standards service
Hostile work environment laws
FMLA - the Family & Medical Leave Act
The ADA-American's with Disabilities Act
OSHA - Occupational Safety & Health Act
The Fair Labor Standards Act
Second, rather than focus on how best to accommodate the needs of individual employees to have paid (or even unpaid) sick leave within a regulatory framework that accommodates the concerns of business,
the authors have focused most of their attention on
"how to control and punish all those bad employers!"
Here are some of the provisions of the bill of most concern:
- No provisions to guard against employee fraud
- Provisions in the bill that conflict with provisions in federal law (FMLA)
- Requires sick leave be provided to part time and seasonal employees working a minimum of 8 hours per week
- Scope of the bill would require expansive new computer programs for record-keeping,
- Provides up to 80 hours of annual sick leave -- up to 56 hours of which can be carried over to the next year
- Must reinstate any unused sick & safe leave if an employee is rehired within nine months after leaving
- Sick & safe leave can be taken for a very broad variety of reasons:
- The employee's mental or physical condition
To get preventative care for employee or family member (
the definition of "family member" has 10 paragraphs and includes virtually anyone with any care-giving connection to the employee at any time. For example, "an individual who acted as a parent to the employee or the employee's spouse when the employee or the employee's spouse was a minor" )
- To care for a family member with a mental or physical condition
- To take care of any phase of a sexual assault or stalking of the employee or any family member.
- Although businesses with fewer than 15 employees only have to provide unpaid sick & safe leave, the method of determining the number of employees is based on the previous year and requires counting even those employees who would not qualify for sick & safe leave.
I sometimes suspect that bills such as this are drafted to contain certain provisions that are so obviously bad, that the makers can show compromise by amending them.
The original bill required a totally unrealistic effective date of
from now, on
October 1, 2016
- The original bill had no provision requiring an employee to give any prior notice to the employer. The impact on any business that relies on part-time or seasonal workers -- particularly restaurants and the hospitality industry -- would be devastating!
- the original bill allowed an employee to sue the employee for violating any part of the act, and be eligible not only to recover the unpaid sick and safe leave and any actual economic damages, but treble damages, reasonable counsel fees, other costs and to get injunctive relief.
Third, there has been no thought given to whether it is appropriate or practicable to require employers to give sick leave to part-time employees. It's possible there may be circumstances that warrant it; but there are so many reasons that people work part-time jobs, that forcing such an overwhelming burden--in both time and money--particularly on small businesses, without making an effort to determine the precise need, is simply wrong.
Fourth, and finally, the makers of this bill have completely ignored the voluminous testimony of more than 44 individuals, businesses, public school systems, and associations as well as the comments of fellow Delegates who own restaurants and small businesses that documents the problems this piece of legislation will cause. They are listed in the table below.
Public School Superintendents' Association
Society for Human Resource Management
Maryland Assoc. of Boards of Education
Maryland School Bus Contractors Assoc.
Harford County Public Schools
Maryland Assoc. of Community Colleges
MD Independent College and University Assoc.
University System of Maryland
Maryland Multi-Housing Association
Anne Arundel County Office of Personnel
Apartment & Office Building Assoc.of Metropolitan DC
Associated Builders & Contractors
MD State Builders Association
Maryland Motor Truck Association
Nat'l Federation of Independent Businesses
Maryland Chamber of Commerce
Hagerstown Chamber of Commerce
Prince Georges County CoC
Howard County Chamber of Commerce
Greater Bethesda Chevy-Chase CoC
Greater Silver Spring CoC
Montgomery County CoC
Baltimore Washington Corridor CoC
Greater Ocean City Chamber of commerce
Ligon & Ligon General Contractors
Printing & Graphics Association Mid-Atlantic
Shapiro & Duncan (contractors
Ace's Run Restaurant & Pub (Oakland, MD)
DaveCo (Wendy's 99 MD Restaurants)
Glory Days Grill
Chesapeake Foods, Inc./MD Foods, Inc.
Clover Restaurant Group
Green Turtle Franchising C
The Pussers Carribbean Grille Restaurant
Silver Diner, Inc.
Dough Roller Restaurants
Great American Restaurant-Coastal Flats
Clyde's Restaurant Group
Rommel Holdings, Inc.
Restaurant Association of Maryland
The bill has been sold to the public as "let's give everyone sick leave." When asked if this is something they would like, a large percentage of the people say yes. Heck, we ALL would like to have good things -- especially if they are free. But when the survey asks if people want sick leave,
if . . .
followed by the potential for some of the effects of the law, the majority flips. Even if it's just "increased prices" that would follow, 51% of the people say, no.
Although the presumption is that the Senate will kill the bill this year, it is also presumed that the bill will be passed either next year or in 2018. The Majority Party seems to believe that this is a good "election year issue."
I'm not sure they are right.