Update on Maryland Employer Mandated Paid Sick Leave

Posted By: Tommy Tompsett

Yesterday, Senator Thomas "Mac" Middleton (D - Charles County), Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, held an interim hearing on Employer Mandated Paid Sick Leave.  With the primary sponsor of last year's paid sick leave bill, Senator Pugh, becoming the Mayor of Baltimore and thus departing from the Maryland General Assembly, Senator Middleton will now take up her cause as the primary sponsor of the bill.  It should be noted that the Paid Sick Leave Legislation will be assigned to Senator Middleton's Finance Committee.

As MMHA has previously reported, some form of an employer mandated paid sick leave is likely to pass this session.  Therefore, it is vitally important that an equitable piece of legislation be enacted.  MMHA, along with other business industries who have formed a business coalition, participated in the interim hearing yesterday.

While MMHA has consistently stressed that employers, through the relationship they cultivate with their employees, are more suited to address their respective needs when it comes to paid leave than a one-size-fit all approach that the legislature has proposed, we recognize that this bill is now moving forward despite our views and so to make this bill more palatable from our perspective, it will need to incorporate 2 things: 1. statewide preemption and 2. exemption.

Statewide Preemption

A bill of this breadth that essentially touches every employee in the state should preempt local counties and municipalities who would seek to expand or change the terms of this law both through new legislation or through enforcement of an already codified local law.  Businesses routinely operate in multiple counties and municipalities; therefore, to be equitable to both employees and employers alike, a paid sick leave law should be uniform throughout the state.

Exemption

Maryland's attempt to enact an one-size-fits-all employer mandated paid sick leave policy puts current paid leave policies are in limbo.  The National Apartment Association calculates that the multifamily industry in Maryland supports approximately 169,473 jobs.  Most of our members provide paid leave to their employees.  Our members, however, are not uniform in how they structure such leave.  Some members use a traditional vacation leave and sick leave combination, while others use a combined policy of paid time off (PTO), while still others use PTO plus medical leave.  While the legislature was adjourned this past year, MMHA stressed these concerns to the advocates of paid sick  leave and requested total exemption from any paid sick leave mandate if an employer already provides a PTO policy that meets or exceeds the yearly number of earned sick and safe leave days set forth in any proposed legislation.  Nonetheless, the legislation as drafted, exemption can only occur if the employer’s PTO policy is “under terms and conditions that are at least equivalent to the earned sick and safe leave provided for under this subtitle[.]” (emphasis added).  With “terms and conditions” being undefined, the legislation as drafted seems to read that current PTO plans must meet all requirements of this 14-page bill, including the accounting and the posting components, or else an employer would need to establish a separate compliant sick leave program.

The Maryland Association of Counties has provided a nice summary of the interim hearing.

MMHA, its legislative committee, and its business coalition allies will continue to work for an equitable resolution to this State employer mandate.