Bill requires many employers to offer paid sick leave

By Jeremy Bauer-Wolf

You're sick

Photo by phlora on Flickr

Almost a majority of the House of Delegates is sponsoring legislation to mandate many Maryland businesses offer paid sick and safe leave policy for their employees, a move one research group estimates would cost employers $165 million.

The House Economic Matters Committee heard testimony Tuesday on the the Maryland Earned Sick and Safe Leave Act, HB 968, sponsored by Baltimore County Del. John Olszewski Jr. and 65 other Democrats. Businesses that employ 10 or more would be forced to provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours an employee works. Employees paid sick leave would cap at 56 hours per year, equaling one week of the calendar year.

Businesses with nine employees or fewer would only be  required to provide an hour of unpaid leave for every 30 hours of work. Employees could cash in this sick time when either they or a family member takes ill and requires care, or if the employee is a victim of domestic or sexual assault and wants to seek mental health treatment.

Low-income workers would benefit

Proponents of the bill say that it would primarily benefit low-income workers in fields like food service, retail jobs, home-care providers — sectors that interact with the public the most, but are least likely to have the benefits, according to Melissa Broome, senior policy advocate at Job Opportunities Task Force (JOTF).

Broome, whose organization assists low-income Marylanders in finding suitable careers, said that the bill would alleviate stress placed upon household breadwinners, who in other circumstances would have to choose between caring for themselves or a sick relative or earning a paycheck.

“It’s very hard for anyone to argue that this not a reality,” she said. “This is a reality that all families are facing.”

Business groups oppose

The opposition at the hearing came from representatives of large corporations, some Maryland business owners, the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, and other industry groups, who said the bill’s language is too vague. They also argued that it would place unnecessary stress on human resources representatives and other administrators, who, as a condition of the bill, would be required to track relevant records for at least three years, or face financial penalties.

Del. Dereck Davis

Del. Dereck Davis

“I think generally most of our contractors give [some form] of leave,” said Sean Malone, who represents Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc.. “But having it mandated by government is a different issues, and having penalties attached to it is problematic. As drafted, we don’t support the bill, but we’ll work with anybody on legislation.”

During the hearing, the House Economic Matters Committee Chair Dereck Davis, D-Prince George’s County, recounted a personal anecdote about the time he tore his his Achilles tendon and couldn’t work.

“Occasionally people need a day off – not always a mental health day, but rather a situation such as mine. I needed surgery,” Davis said during the hearing.

Compromises made after last year’s bill withdrawn

Last year’s version of the bill was withdrawn before it came to vote, and to compromise, the 2014 bill features several concessions, Broome said, including the provision for unpaid sick leave for businesses with nine or fewer employees. Employers are also not required to grant sick leave to an employee that hasn’t been with the company more than 90 days.

According to the fiscal analysis of the bill, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found709,400 private-sector workers do not have earned sick days in Maryland. The institute estimates it would cost Maryland employers $165 million to provide new earned sick days for employees, which is equivalent to a 24-cents-per-hour increase in wages for employees receiving the new leave.

The senate version of the bill, SB 753, sponsored by Sen. Catherine Pugh, will be in heard in the Senate Finance Committee Thursday.

About The Author

Len Lazarick

Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.


  1. Hard working Employer

    I just hired my tenth employee two months ago. Looks like she will be on unemployment again thanks to the democrats!

  2. FEDUP!

    So, if I have an employee that works 30 hours a week, he should get 52 hours of sick leave a year…that is more than 1 full time week. Are you people NUTS! STAY OUT OF MY BUSINESS. If my employee doesn’t like his benefits then get another *&^%% job. Cause if you want sick leave then I just cut your salary.

    • HR Lady

      I’m a proponent of sick leave, but I think 52 hours is on the generous side for someone only working 30 hours/week. If the goal is to make sure the vast majority of employees have some kind of sick leave, our legislators could start off with a lower requirement, e.g. 4 days a year or 32 hours, for someone working 40 hours.

      At my employer, we give one week of sick leave the first year and two weeks the second. If we have to increase the amount we award new hires, then we will need to reduce the amount we give tenured staff. We are a nonprofit and we don’t have endless deep pockets! Also, my organization pays for short and long term disability so that is extra protection for employees but this bill doesn’t give us credit for it.

      We have a lot of part-time employees who work variable hours and tracking the leave will not be easy in the payroll system we have.

      I am really surprised this bill is being entertained during a year when increasing minimum wage is probably inevitable. I am also surprised this bill extends all the way down to employers with 10 employees.

  3. abby_adams

    Paid sick leave is a nice perk but given the state of the economy I can’t see private sector employers adding yet another expensive benefit. Bundle a hike in minimum wage, Obamacare & now paid sick leave, under the heavy state tax burden on workers & business alike equals a recipe for disaster. Not every MD worker enjoys the same perks as Fed & State employees.

    • Patrick Kniesler

      The health goods company-owned call center my fiancee works in is very strict on leave because they need employees to be on call all day and the company does not have buckets of money to throw at employees. If things like this pass the jobs are going to India and the midwest.

    • Dale McNamee


      I agree with you… Adding this to the other mandates will result in fewer employees,fewer hours, fewer jobs,etc.

      I can’t wait to see the State employees get hit…

      • Steve E

        The decision should be left up to the companies as to the benefits they offer. Why do all the liberals think that everything should be mandated by the state. How much more can the small business owner in Maryland take? rain tax, high personal property tax, increase in the min wage, mandated sick leave, mandated health care and the list goes on. I have a small retail business that since 2007 has been break even. I have not laid off any workers or cut hours. I have been committed to my employees. Things are just starting to turn around where I can see the light at the end of the Tunnel. Why do all the liberals think that the business owners are making tons of money. I continue to hear all the time “business owners need to do more”. Our State and country are headed in the wrong direction! We can not continue to have more and more government regulations and higher taxes.

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        • Dale McNamee

          Liberals are immature creatures who live in a fantasy world where they don’t have the responsibilities of starting and running a business… They pick up their ideas of business owners from other immature liberal creatures who populate the educational systems and the media who portray business owners as evil & greedy…. Remember Obama said that : ” You didn;t build that” to business owners…

          Need I say more ?

          • Steve E


  4. R Ferraro

    So, right now Maryland employees are subsidizing businesses to the tune of $165 million by not having this. A minimum level of paid sick leave is just common decency. Astounding to me that some employers do not provide this to their workers.

    • Patrick Kniesler

      Your comment defies the very basics of personal property.

      • R Ferraro

        You’ll have to explain that. What personal property are you talking about? Obviously, not the personal property of the workers. It seems that costs are only computed when they are the businesses costs. What about the costs to the workers, or the society, or the customers or fellow employees who are forced to interact with sick people? You mean to tell me that none of these businesses can afford to give a few days off for being sick? What kind of businessman cannot structure his business for such a minimum level of human decency? Or, maybe we are talking about very incompetent businessmen.

        • Patrick Kniesler

          You are better served by reading economics 101 from somewhere other than MotherJones. Your argument has no basis in anything but raw emotion. Feeling is very different from thinking, and I think you should give it a try.

          • R Ferraro

            Point me to the research that backs up your claims. I admit that the concept of common decency may be foreign to you. I find no problem in wanting to live in such a society. You, however, want to force sick workers to go to work and endanger the health of fellow workers and the public.

          • Patrick Kniesler

            It isn’t “research.” You are disconnected from the entire academic field of economics. Start at page one in any book of college-level econ.

          • R Ferraro

            I’ve studied plenty of economics. Stop with the whining and make an argument. A good businessman can easily manage a few sick days for employees. If they can’t they shouldn’t be in business. Economics, as a discipline, encompasses much more than the defense of exploitation of workers. I’m tired of so-called economists and businessmen who only see a “cost” when it impacts the owner. Not providing paid sick leave is externalizing costs onto the workers and the general public.

        • Steve E

          Why should a business be forced to pay someone for a days work if they are sick. If you work for a company that does not offer sick leave get another job. The state of Maryland will not stop until they put all small business owners out of business!!! If you have a small company of 10 employees that would be 10 week of paid sick leave per year. What you don’t understand is that many small companies are just barely hanging on!

          • R Ferraro

            Because it is the right thing to do; common decency & good business practice. If every business is doing it, the costs are shared by all and can be built into the price of the goods or services provided by the business. By not providing sick leave, workers are forced to come to work, even though they are sick and thus endanger the health of everyone, including the owner, if it is a small business. As a small businessman, I understand how hard things are right now. I also understand how hard it is for everyone, all workers in today’s economy, who are also just hanging on. In retail food, I see workers going to work sick all the time, because they have no paid sick leave. Think about that the next time you buy food from a small business that does not offer paid sick leave.

          • Steve E

            The decision should be left up to the companies as to the benefits they offer. Why do all the liberals think that everything should be mandated by the state. How much more can the small business owner in Maryland take? rain tax, high personal property tax, increase in the min wage, mandated sick leave, mandated health care and the list goes on. I have a small retail business that since 2007 has been break even. I have not laid off any workers or cut hours. I have been committed to my employees. Things are just starting to turn around where I can see the light at the end of the Tunnel. Why do all the liberals think that the business owners are making tons of money. I continue to hear all the time “business owners need to do more”. Our State and country are headed in the wrong direction! We can not continue to have more and more government regulations and higher taxes.

          • steve E

            Here is a short story to explain where we a headed.
            Barack Obama discovers a leak under his sink, so he calls Joe the Plumber to come and fix it.

            Joe drives to Obama’s house, which is located in a very nice neighborhood and where it’s clear that ALL the residents make MORE than $250,000 per year..

            Joe arrives and assesses the problem, and tells Obama that it’s an easy repair that will take less than 10 minutes.

            Obama asks Joe how much it will cost…

            Joe immediately says–“$9,500.”

            “$9,500?”….Obama asks, stunned, “But you said it’s an easy repair !”

            “Yes, but what I do is charge a lot MORE to my clients who make MORE than $250,000 per year…. so I can fix the plumbing of everybody who makes LESS than that for FREE,” explains Joe.

            “It’s always been my philosophy….. As a matter of fact, I lobbied government to pass this philosophy as law, and it DID pass earlier this year, so NOW all plumbers have to do business this way.!!!

            It’s known as ‘Joe’s Fair Plumbing Act of 2009.’ Surprised you haven’t heard of it.”

            In spite of that……Obama tells Joe there’s no way

            he’s paying that much for a small plumbing repair, so Joe leaves.

            Obama spends the next hour flipping through the phone book looking for another plumber, but he finds that ALL other plumbing businesses listed have gone ‘out-of-business’.

            Not wanting to pay Joe’s price, Obama does nothing. The leak under Obama’s sink goes unrepaired for the next several days.

            A week later, the leak is so bad that there’s a risk that the room will flood, so Obama calls Joe and pleads with him to return.

            Joe goes back to Obama’s house, looks at the leaky pipe, and says….

            “Let’s see – this will cost you about $21,000.”

            “A few days ago you told me it would cost

            $9,500 !!!”—- Obama quickly fires back.

            Joe explains the reason for the dramatic increase. “Well, because of the

            ‘Joe’s Fair Plumbing Act,’ a LOT of rich people are LEARNING how to fix their OWN plumbing, so there are FEWER of you paying for all the FREE plumbing I’m doing for the people who make less than $250,000.

            As a result, the rate I have to charge my wealthy

            paying customers RISES every day….

            “Not only that, but for some reason the demand for plumbing work from the group of people who get it for free HAS skyrocketed, and there’s a long waiting list of those who need repairs.

            THIS, has put a lot of my fellow plumbers out-of-business, and they’re not being replaced. NOBODY is going into the plumbing business because they know they WON’T make any money.

            “I’m hurting NOW too – all THANKS to greedy rich people like YOU who won’t pay their fair share.”

            Obama tries to straighten out the plumber :

            “Of course you’re hurting Joe !!!… Don’t you get it” ???

            IF, all the rich people LEARN how to fix their OWN plumbing and you refuse to CHARGE the poorer people for your services…YOU’LL be broke, and then WHAT will you do” ???

            Joe states….”I’ll just draw Unemployment for 99 weeks, and then I WILL qualify for Food Stamps, Housing Allowance, and MANY MORE of other FREE government programs, which ALL together amount to $168.00 PER DAY…which is MORE that I was making BEFORE Obamacare was the law of the land.!!!

            “Praise the Lord…. For YOU, and ALL the Democrats in Congress”.

            (And don’t forget my exemptions from Obamacare)

            Socialism :

            A philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy; Its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.!!! … Winston Churchill

          • R Ferraro

            Talk about a philosophy of failure and a culture of ignorance and a gospel of envy. It seems that you envy imaginary poor people. Your philosophy of failure is that a capitalist economy cannot provide decent wages and working conditions for its citizens. Why do you think this, steve E? Lots of capitalist countries provide these minimum benefits to all of their citizens, but somehow, for you, it is impossible for the greatest capitalist nation of the Earth, our USA. Why do you dwell on the businesses that do not provide decent wages and benefits, when there are plenty of good companies that treat their workers properly and who have maintained healthy profits for decades. Someone proposes leveling the playing field, by mandating a minimum level of decency for all businesses, so the cheap skates among us do not have an unfair advantage in the market, and you howl. I suggest you have more faith in the capitalist system, steve E, or you will start sounding like a socialist.

          • Steve E

            A capitalist system is an economic system in which the means of production and distribution are privately or corporately owned and development is proportionate to the accumulation and reinvestment of profits gained in a free market. Note: free market!! Free market is not having the government “level the playing field” as you state. I do not dwell on the companies that do not pay good wages and benefits. I believe that a company should not be mandated into how they need to run their business. If an employee is not happy with what an employer offers as a benefit package, they can find a job that offers what they want. Our State and Federal Govt. wants to control every aspect of our life. Although the govt. has shown time and time again that it can’t manage its own affairs. Why do you think that so many states and the federal government are in such financial straights? They are overstaffed and offer compensation packages that are not realistic. A police officer and fireman can get full retirement after 20 years of service, with health care for the rest of their lives. The mindset of all the liberals is that the private sector should be able to offer the same benefits. This is just simply not possible. Since 2007 many sectors of business have been unable to raise prices on the products and services they offer to the consumer. However, the cost of doing business has increased dramatically due to tax increases, regulations, healthcare etc. There are many businesses that operate on very low margins and simply can’t pay high wages and benefits. If this bill passes I can tell you what will happen. Businesses will give the employees the sick pay benefit required by law and the employee will not get a raise that year. The end result will be nothing but more regulation and record keeping to deal with.

  5. md observer

    The scope of DLS’ fiscal and policy analysis is deficient because it doesn’t cover any effects apart from the beneficial ones from Women’s Policy Research. The bill’s language places what should be small-business HR policy into state law, complete with enforcement provisions.

    The effects of this law would be similar to those in CBO’s report on the Federal minimum wage. It predicted substantial reductions in employment. HB 968 is bad law.