Ocean City Today

Legislators got paid sick leave wrong

Readers' Forum
May 18, 2017



printed 05/19/2017



House Bill 1, which mandates paid leave for even those who work only a few hours per week, was not the compromise lawmakers claim, and it could do real damage to those favorite summertime shops.

Our members want safe, healthy employees, and will continue to offer the most competitive wages and benefits they can afford. We cautioned lawmakers that a one-size-fits-all governmental mandate would not work for Maryland’s small businesses, of which Ocean City has many. Otherwise, employers, their staffs and their customers could suffer.

HB1 mandates paid leave for employees who work as few as 12 hours per week. Businesses with 15 or more employees must comply; those with fewer than 15 employees must provide unpaid leave. All employers face excessive fines for even small record-keeping errors.

To help seasonal employers like most in Ocean City and other tourist areas, we asked that employees work 120 days before accruing paid time off. The Senate Finance and House Economic Matters Committees declined to vote on this proposal.

Instead, the Senate adopted a 106-day period. That’s roughly the number of days between Memorial Day and Labor Day. It means that seasonal employees who work before Memorial Day could be eligible for paid leave before Labor Day, potentially leaving employers understaffed during the critical end-of-season weekend and beyond.

We want students and others to be able to return to their seasonal jobs. But HB1 means that employees who return fewer than 37 weeks after their last work day are immediately able to take accrued paid leave, making it hard for employers to schedule the staff they need.

Lawmakers eventually agreed that employers can verify how an employee used their paid leave. However, the verification isn’t defined in the bill, and it can only be required if the employee agrees to the terms on hiring day. If employees don’t provide the verification when asked, the employer still has to pay. The only recourse allowed is to deny a future similar request.

Legislators ignored employers’ valid concerns. The result is a costly government mandate requiring cumbersome record keeping and imposing excessive penalties for even an inadvertent error. This bill means potential cutbacks on hiring, increased prices to offset costly mandates, or inability to rehire returning seasonal employees. What lawmakers call “compromise” was merely one-sided strategy.

Lawrence A. Richardson Jr., Esq.

Vice President, Government Affairs, Maryland Chamber of Commerce

Maryland Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Maryland Motor Truck Association

Maryland Retailers Association

National Federation of Independent Business

Mid-Atlantic Petroleum Distributors Association


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