Lawmakers in Maryland have attempted to pass a paid sick leave bill for a number of years. With the General Assembly reconvening on Wednesday, the effort is being renewed this year. Thus far, legislators have introduced House Bill 1 and House Bill 65 — both are versions of the Healthy Working Families Act, which was introduced last session as House Bill 580. Governor Hogan has said that he will introduce paid sick leave legislation of his own.
If passed, HB 1/HB 65 would require employers to provide earned sick and safe leave to their employees. Here are some of the highlights of the legislation:
- Employers with 15 or more employees must provide employees with paid sick/safe leave at the same wage rate as the employee normally earns.
- Employers with 14 or fewer employees must provide employees with unpaid sick/safe leave.
- Employees regularly working less than 8 hours a week for an employer and employees in the construction industry who are covered by a CBA in which the sick/safe leave law’s requirements are expressly waived in clear and unambiguous terms are not covered by the legislation.
- Employees would earn one hour of leave for every 30 hours worked.
- Employers are not required to allow an employee to: (1) earn more than 56 leave hours in a year; (2) use more than 80 hours of sick/safe leave in a year; (3) accrue a total of more than 80 hours of sick/safe leave at any time; or (4) use sick/safe leave during the first 90 calendar days of employment or the first 480 hours worked, whichever is shorter.
- Employers may award the full amount of leave at the beginning of the year or may require employees to accrue the leave.
- Exempt employees are assumed to work 40 hours per workweek.
Employees may carry over the leave balance from year to year, but employers may limit the carry over amount to 56 hours. Employers are not required to let employees carry over the leave, however, if the employer awards the leave at the beginning of the year or the employment is contingent upon receipt of a grant.
If an employee is rehired within nine months of leaving a job, the unused earned leave the employee had earned must be reinstated unless the employer paid out the unused leave at the time of termination. Further, employers may recoup negative leave balances if the employee consents in writing. Employers are not required to pay out unused leave upon termination of employment.
The leave can be used for the following purposes:
- To care for or treat an employee’s mental or physical illness, injury, or condition.
- To obtain preventative care for an employee or an employee’s family member.
- To care for or treat a family member of an employee with a mental or physical illness, injury, or condition.
In domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking scenarios, the leave may be used for medical and mental health attention, victim services, and legal services or proceedings.
Employers need not modify existing paid leave policies so long as the policies permit an employee to accrue and use leave in a manner that is at least equivalent to what is required by the sick/safe leave law.
Employers may require advance notice if the leave is foreseeable and may deny leave if it will cause a disruption to the employer.
Some other highlights of the legislation are:
- Employees may not be required to take earned sick/safe leave in an increment more than four hours.
- The leave balance must be included on a pay stub or available online.
- Employers may require verification if an employee uses leave for more than two consecutive shifts.
- Employers must keep records for at least three years.
The legislation includes what can become steep penalties if the Commissioner of Labor and/or the Courts get involved. These damages can include payment of the unpaid leave, economic damages, treble damages, punitive damages, and a civil penalty.
If passed in its current form, the law will take effect January 1, 2018.