Earned Sick Leave Passes Both Chambers in Md. General Assembly

Sarah Mersky, director of government relations at the Baltimore Jewish Council.

A bill that would require Maryland businesses to provide sick leave to workers moved one step closer to becoming law after the state Senate approved the measure by a veto-proof margin.

Under the Senate version of the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act, which passed, 29-18, on Thursday, companies with more than 15 workers would be required to offer five days of earned sick and safe leave per year, with an exception for seasonal employees. Smaller organizations would have to provide the same amount of leave, though it would be unpaid.

The House of Delegates also passed the bill by a veto-proof margin, 88-51, earlier this month. But there are a few key differences in each version of the bill.

The House bill would authorize earned sick and safe leave for seven days a year, and it dubs seasonal workers as those who work fewer than 90 days, unlike the 106 as outlined in the Senate proposal.

The advocacy group Working Matters on March 15 released a prepared statement that said the measure “is the result of five years of compromise, deliberation and input from Maryland businesses, health professionals, community members and working families whose lives would be forever changed for the better by this bill.”

Laura Wallace, Montgomery County community organizer for Jews United for Justice, applauded the bill’s passage.

“What 500,000 Maryland workers need is earned sick and safe leave, because no one should have to choose between their paycheck and their health, putting food on the table or taking care of a sick child,” she said via email.

Sarah Mersky, director of government relations for the Baltimore Jewish Council, echoed those sentiments, telling the JT via text that “we are very optimistic on [the bill’s] future.”

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan told reporters prior to the Senate vote that he promised to the veto the bill, insisting it would be “dead on arrival.”

Hogan, a supporter of paid sick leave legislation, proposed an alternative measure. His bill, the Common Sense Paid Leave Act, calls for employers with at least 50 workers at a single location to offer up to five days of paid sick leave. It has yet to garner a committee vote as of press time.

The House and Senate have until April 10, the final day of session, to hammer out their differences.


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