Maryland General Assembly Passes New Law – The Maryland Healthy Working Families Act
On Friday, January 12, 2018, the Maryland Senate voted 30-17 to override Governor Larry Hogan’s veto of the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act (the “Act”), which passed the Maryland General Assembly last year. That was one more vote than the bill received in the Senate last year. You can find a summary, documents and history of the Act on the General Assembly of Maryland’s website.
The Act will become Law in 30 days, unless the General Assembly acts to delay its implementation. It requires employers to provide paid “Earned Sick and Safe Leave” to hundreds of thousands of Maryland workers. Governor Hogan put forth a vigorous fight to pick off a few Democrats in each chamber to sustain his veto, but his efforts fell short. The sick leave bill was the single most politically charged issue leftover from the 2017 Legislative Session. It pitted progressive groups and some labor unions against business groups in the six-year struggle that culminated in Friday’s vote.
Senator Bobby Zirkin, a Baltimore County Democrat who opposed the bill last year, switched his vote to support the override. After the vote, Hogan’s spokeswoman, Amelia Chasse, issued a statement urging lawmakers to change the bill they just passed to bring it closer to the “compromise” bill the governor had offered as an alternative. This law is currently scheduled to take effect on February 11, 2018, but Senate President, Thomas Middleton, stated that they may be seeking an extension to make the law effective after 90 days instead.
In the meantime, as the political posturing is over, it’s time to get down to business. Governor Hogan is creating a State Office, the Office of Small Business Regulatory Assistance, to assist small businesses in response to the mandate for paid sick leave workers. While trying to help small businesses cope with the law’s impact, Hogan had urged lawmakers to support an alternative that would have applied to businesses with 25 or more workers by 2020.
The Act requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide their employees with at least one (1) hour of Sick and Safe Leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours of paid Sick and Safe Leave per year. Smaller employers with 14 or fewer employees will be required to provide their employees with up to 40 hours of unpaid Sick and Safe Leave annually. Employees who have accrued unused Sick and Safe Leave at the end of each year must be permitted to carry over that leave to the following year, though employers may impose a 40-hour carry over cap.
Under the Act, employees can use Sick and Safe Leave to care for or treat the employee’s own mental or physical illness, injury or condition; to obtain preventive medical care for the employee or the employee’s family members; to care for a family member with a mental or physical illness, injury or condition; for maternity or paternity leave; or in situations where the absence is necessary due to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking committed against the employee or the employee’s family member. A family member includes the employee’s children, parents, spouse, grandparents, grandchildren, and siblings.
The Act contains several important exceptions and carve-outs. The Act will not apply to:
- Employees who regularly work less than 12 hours a week;
- Employees who are employed in the construction industry and are covered by a collective bargaining agreement that expressly waives the requirements of the law; and
- Certain “as-needed” employees in a health or human services industry.
In addition, employers will not be required to allow employees to:
- Carry over more than 40 hours of accrued, unused Sick and Safe Leave from year to year;
- Use more than 64 hours of Sick and Safe Leave in a year;
- Accrue more than 64 hours at any time; or
- Use Sick and Safe Leave during the first 106 calendar days that the employee works for the employer (although leave must accrue during this initial employment period).
Once the Act goes into effect, Maryland will join Connecticut, California, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont, Arizona, Washington, and Rhode Island to become the ninth state to require employers to provide paid sick leave. Washington D.C. also has a paid sick leave law.
In summary, some employers will need to revise their current Paid Time Off policies to reflect the requirements of the new law, which becomes effective February 11, 2018.
General Assembly of Maryland