On Labor Day 2015, President Obama issued an Executive Order that requires certain government contractors and subcontractors to provide up to 7 days of paid sick leave per year. This leave may be used for illness or injury; medical appointments or treatment; caring for an injured or ill family member, or obtaining medical treatment for them; and, in cases involving domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking, to obtain counseling, seek relocation, seek assistance from a victim services organization, take legal action, or to assist a family member with regard to any of these actions. This requirement will be effective for all contracts entered into or renewed on or after January 1, 2017. (More pain for government contractors…)
Along with the Executive Order, the White House also issued a Fact Sheet: Helping Middle-Class Families Get Ahead by Expanding Paid Sick Leave. According to the Fact Sheet, the Executive Order will extend paid sick leave to 300,000 workers on federal contracts and subcontracts. The White House contends that this action will “improve the health and performance of employees,” will make (sub) contractors competitive by bringing their benefits packages in line with leading firms, and will protect the public health by allowing employees with communicable diseases to remain home.
The Fact Sheet also notes that President Obama is urging Congress to pass the long-languishing Healthy Families Act, which would require all employers with 15 or more employees to provide paid sick leave. Because it is unlikely to pass (snowball’s chance in hell, really), President Obama also specifically called upon cities and states to pass sick leave laws.
Here in Maryland, President Obama’s call is falling on receptive ears in the Maryland General Assembly. A paid sick leave bill has been proposed for the past several sessions, and has gained traction each year, but ultimately has not made it out of the House Economic Matters Committee. In response to the Executive Order, the Chairman of the Committee, Representative Dereck E. Davis was quoted by the Washington Post, in an article on Prince Georges County’s attempt to pass a paid sick leave law, as stating, “I think [sick leave is] a bill whose time has come … I think it would be best if we had one bill that governed everyone in the state, but that does not mean that if the locals want to do something stronger, they are definitely encouraged to do so.” According to the Washington Post, Delegate Davis is “committed to using all his power to push a bill out of the House this session.”
As I previously blogged, there are substantial costs and other non-monetary impacts on employers resulting from a paid sick leave mandate. If the state law passes this year, as many people expect it to do, I believe there will be unintended negative consequences for those workers the law is intended to help, as employers seek to deal with the increased costs of doing business in Maryland.