Maryland Adopts New Sick-Leave Policy

By Hicks, Josh | The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV), February 10, 2018 | Go to article overview

Maryland Adopts New Sick-Leave Policy


Hicks, Josh, The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV)


Many business owners in Maryland are scrambling to prepare for the state's new sick-leave policy, which takes effect Sunday despite a veto last year from Gov. Larry Hogan, R, and a last-ditch attempt by the state Senate to delay it.

Some business owners say they don't know whether their employees qualify for the benefit, or wonder if their existing plans comply with the requirements. Others are concerned about a perceived lack of guidance from the state, or what will happen if they make an honest mistake.

"I haven't received any mailings about it, or any information at all, said Tom Kunkel, who runs a Harford County-based marketing and printing company that employs about 20 people. "There's still a ton of questions I have.

Thelaw requires businesses with at least 15 employees to provide up to five days of paid leave each year for workers to deal with illness or issues such as domestic violence, assault or stalking. Exemptions apply to a long list of employees, including those who regularly work less than 12 hours a week, independent contractors, real estate brokers, construction workers covered by union contracts and anyone under the age of 18.

On Monday, the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation sent out basic guidance to about 210,000 people, including business owners who have participated in work groups on the issue or contacted the agency with questions.

The Hogan administration, which has pushed for changes in the law and supported an effort to delay implementation until summer, said it plans to release firmer guidelines within the next few weeks, after which it will take comment from the public and possibly develop official regulations, a process not required by the statute.

The five-person Office of Small Business Regulatory Assistance, created in mid-January, had received more than 600 emails about the new law as of Wednesday, according to the labor department.

According to the Regional Economic Studies Institute at Towson University, more than 107,000 Maryland businesses - 78 percent of businessesin the state - had 15 or more employees in 2015.

State legislative analysts have estimated that 64 percent of Maryland employees already receive paid sick leave, but that nearly 700,000 residents who don't will be eligible for the benefit under the law.

Some business owners are enthusiastic about the sick-leave requirement.

Ed Snodgrass, who operates a Harford County wholesale nursery that employs about 17 people during its peak season, said that the mandate is a matter of social justice and that it won't cause him much burden.

"There will be more time spent making coffee than keeping track of how many hours of paid leave someone has earned, he said. "We do more complicated things than that.

But other business owners say they are confused about how to adhere to the law - or whether they even have to. They're asking whether minors and workers located out of state count toward their total number of employees, and how the state defines "regularly for determining whether a person works enough hours to qualify for the benefit, among other questions. …

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