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A new Maryland law requiring most employers in the state to provide paid sick leave for their employees came into effect this week after the state House rejected a Senate effort to delay it until July, CBS Baltimore reported on Wednesday:
While most Maryland employers provide paid sick leave, analysts estimated about 700,000 people didn’t have the benefit which this law will now change. …
It applies to businesses with at least 15 employees, providing one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, and businesses with fewer than 15 get unpaid job protective leave, which also applies to part-time workers. … This law requires businesses to provide five days of sick leave for full-time employees. Backers of the policy see it as an overall benefit for both companies and their staff.
Like sick-leave laws passed recently in other jurisdictions like New York City, Maryland’s law also allows employees to use their sick leave entitlement to address matters of domestic violence, such as going to court to obtain protective orders against abusers or dealing with the aftermath of sexual assault.
The Baltimore, Maryland, city council is expected to pass a bill today to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022, a rate nearly $5 higher than in the surrounding counties, the Baltimore Sun reports:
With eight newly elected members — some of whom say their supporters expect dramatic change — the City Council has rallied around veteran lawmaker Mary Pat Clarke’s minimum wage proposal, which she argues will help some of Baltimore’s poorest residents escape poverty. …
The council, composed entirely of Democrats, gave preliminary approval to the legislation this month. Another affirmative vote would send the matter to the desk of new Mayor Catherine Pugh, who has yet to say whether she will sign or veto the legislation. Pugh, also a Democrat, pledged during her campaign to support a $15 minimum wage, but recently expressed concern about the bill’s impact on businesses.
Baltimore joins a growing number of states and municipalities that are moving to raise their pay floors, even as the Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Congress adopt a more employer-oriented approach to wage and hour issues at the federal level. Pugh says she plans to review the bill thoroughly before deciding whether to sign it, but even if she vetoes this bill, a minimum wage hike could still be in the cards for Baltimore in the near future: a poll conducted last year by Public Policy Polling found that 57 percent of Baltimoreans favored an increase to $15 an hour, while 79 percent supported an increase to either $12 or $15 an hour.
Early last year, Democratic lawmakers in the state of Maryland began working on legislation that would require businesses throughout the state with more than 10 staff to offer each employee one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours of work. This week, Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, pronounced both the Maryland House and Senate versions of the mandate “dead on arrival” if they landed on his desk for signature, according to the Washington Post. Hogan said he would veto the bills immediately “because they will simply kill businesses and jobs”:
The bill approved last week in the House would require employers to give seven paid sick-leave days a year. The version that will be voted on by the Senate as early as Thursday would require five paid sick days a year. Companies with fewer than 15 employees would have to provide five days of unpaid sick leave. Hogan is pushing a different sick-leave bill that would require businesses with 50 or more employees to provide five paid sick days a year and would offer tax incentives to smaller businesses that agree to do so.
The governor’s measure has not moved out of committee. At a news conference on Wednesday, he urged lawmakers to negotiate with him and create a bill more like what he is proposing, saying he cannot support a sick-leave law unless it provides flexibility and support for smaller businesses.
Hogan is not dead-set against progressive employment laws, as evidenced by the expansive new equal pay law he signed last year. The question for Maryland is not whether a mandate will be enacted, but rather whether Hogan or the Democrats in the state congress prevail in determining its ultimate scope.
The controversial new overtime rule the US Labor Department issued last year during the Obama administration is currently tied up in court, and after the Republican victory in November’s elections, it is looking unlikely to survive in its current form. The rule, which would have immediately raised the salary threshold at which employees are exempt from overtime pay from $23,660 to $47,476 as of December 1 of last year, was blocked just before going into effect, so many employers had already made or executed plans to comply with it by increasing pay or reducing hours for some employees. Some of these plans will remain in place, partly because employers don’t want to renege on raises and partly because they expect the threshold to increase in the near future regardless, even with Republicans in control of Congress and the White House.
The alternative rules proposed by GOP lawmakers would raise the federal threshold less dramatically, phasing it in over a period of several years. At the state level, however, Democrats are looking to push ahead with new regulations similar or identical to the Obama administration’s rule in the statehouses they control. New York State enacted its own version of the overtime rule at the start of the new year, though it may also be challenged in court. Now, according to the Maryland Reporter, Democratic lawmakers in Annapolis are looking to do the same:
The bill, HB665, would increase the salary cap for white-collar and service workers currently exempt from overtime pay to $47,476 up from the current $23,660. That would be $913 per week, up from $455 weekly. “This salary level has not been changed since 2004 and is now less than the poverty level for a family of four,” said Del. Jimmy Tarlau, D-Prince George’s, in testimony before the House Economic Matters Committee on Tuesday. …
Last Thursday, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed a bill into law that is intended to help close the gender pay gap, partly by making it harder for employers to prevent employees from revealing to each other how much they earn. Vox’s Emily Crockett explains how the law is supposed to accomplish its goals:
Some employers either explicitly or implicitly ban the discussion of salaries, because they’re afraid of stoking resentments or revealing inequities. And this lack of pay transparency is one major cause of the wage gap. Unconscious bias means women are frequently offered lower salaries for various reasons, and sometimes employers have no idea that they’re consistently paying women less than men until they conduct pay audits.
The way the system is currently set up is also incredibly unfair to low-wage workers, most of whom are women, [Charly Carter, executive director of Maryland Working Families,] said. For practical purposes, many of them have little or no legal protection against retaliation. All they can do is appeal to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) — a lengthy process that not even all workers can avail themselves of.
“If you’re making minimum wage, if you’re making $30,000 a year, you don’t have two years and lawyers’ fees to go after your employer for treating you badly,” Carter said.
Josh Hicks at the Washington Post reports that state legislators there are looking to mandate paid sick leave this year, with two Democratic state senators, including the majority leader, planning to propose bills requiring that one hour of paid sick leave be offered for every 30 hours of work by any business that has 10 or more employees. A similar effort by the lawmakers got held up at the committee level last year, but they’ve now tweaked the proposal and will give it another go. Hicks notes they aren’t alone either:
Sick-leave advocates have tried for the past year to capitalize on support from the Obama administration to promote policies on paid sick leave. They have achieved some success at the state and local levels, including in the District of Columbia, New York City and Montgomery County. Maryland would be the fifth state to enact sick-leave legislation, following California, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Oregon.
Maryland, which has a Republican governor and a Democrat-dominated legislature, has flirted with statewide paid sick leave mandates in recent years but declined to push forward with past proposals; proponents of the mandate tell Hicks that lawmakers probably won’t seek a vote on the issue unless they are confident that they can overcome a veto by governor Larry Hogan. A similar mandate in Pittsburgh was recently struck down in court.