On April 5, 2017, the Healthy Working Families Act (HB1) was approved by the Maryland House of Delegates. The bill previously passed the Maryland Senate on March 16, 2017. On May 25, 2017, Governor Hogan vetoed the bill, although the bill passed with the necessary support to override a veto.
The bill requires Maryland employers with 15 or more employees to provide five paid sick leave days per year for their employees and requires employers with less than 15 employees to provide up to five unpaid sick leave days per year. The bill excludes employees who regularly work less than 12 hours per week, employees in the construction industry, employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement that expressly waives the requirements of the bill and certain “as-needed” employees in the health and human services industry.
Proponents of the bill describe it as an important protection for employees who cannot afford to miss work when they are sick. However, critics of the bill have expressed concern that the measure will hurt small businesses and ultimately lead to employee cut-backs. Governor Hogan stated through his spokesperson when the bill passed the Senate that he supports “common-sense paid sick leave,” but the proposed legislation is “not common sense and will directly threaten Maryland small businesses and jobs.”
Governor Hogan supports an alternative that would require paid sick leave for businesses with at least 50 employees and provide tax incentives to smaller businesses that offered paid sick leave. However, this proposed alternative bill never moved out of committee. Upon his veto of HB1, Governor Hogan issued three related executive orders, which provided paid benefits to contractual employees in the executive branch, allowed state procurement authorities to give preference to contractors who offer paid sick leave to their employees, and created a task force to conduct a comprehensive study on the issue of paid sick leave for Maryland workers and businesses.
The legislature will not have the opportunity to override the veto until next year’s legislative session, which begins on January 10, 2018. If the Health Working Families Act is eventually enacted into law, Maryland would join approximately 40 states, cities and counties across the nation, including Montgomery County, which have already implemented mandatory paid sick leave laws. Michigan, Nevada, and New Jersey are also currently considering proposed paid sick leave legislation.
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