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Maryland Chamber, business coalition unite to oppose mandatory paid leave

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The Maryland Chamber of Commerce stood Monday with a business coalition to oppose House Bill 0001/Senate Bill 0230, which would require businesses as small as 15 employees to pay part-time employees for as many as seven full business days off.

The business coalition, which includes the Associated Builders and Contractors, the Maryland Motor Truck Association, the Maryland Retailers Association, the Maryland Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the Mid-Atlantic Petroleum Distributors Association, the National Federation of Independent Business, the Restaurant Association of Maryland, and the WMDA Service Station and Automotive Repair Association, believes the bill as written is an undue burden on businesses.

“Maryland has a longstanding reputation of not being a business-friendly state,” said Maryland Retailers Association President Cailey Locklear Tolle, “and it is, in part, due to the increasing number of costly mandates the legislature has [passed] and continues to pass.”

Employers on both the business and nonprofit sides shared their concerns about the bill, under which mandatory paid leave kicks in as soon as a part-time employee works eight total hours per week. In addition to concerns about the cost an employer has to shoulder, they expressed the challenge of simply administering this kind of law.

“[It] really would be too cumbersome to any business, let alone a small, family-owned business,” said ConTemporaries President Erin Allen. “I only have five in-house employees, and trying to administer something of that magnitude would really be a challenge.”

Allen’s business is operated out of Montgomery County. There, a separate paid leave bill has already been enacted. HB001/SB0230 does not preempt Montgomery County’s law, which means businesses that operate in Montgomery County and other Maryland counties would have to figure out how to enforce both laws at once for the employees that work in Montgomery County.

The Maryland Chamber wants any bill that legislators intend to pass to preempt Montgomery County’s law for this reason.

Fighting some form of mandatory paid leave looks to be an uphill battle. In addition to HB001/SB0230, Gov. Larry Hogan is expected to release his own version. The Chamber has not seen the governor’s bill and therefore cannot yet speak to it specifically. 

Tolle noted that she and other employer advocates have shared their concerns repeatedly, asking that, if there must be a bill, the number of employees be raised to 50; that the Montgomery County law be preempted; that accidental noncompliance not carry the burden of possible action from the state attorney general; and that it take more than eight hours a week of work in order to qualify for paid leave. The bills thus far, she said, reflect none of those concerns.

“We’re sitting at the table,” Tolle said. “We understand that this is a [legislative] priority and have very explicitly been told that something will be moving, and that’s why we think it’s important to share both with the legislature and with the general public what the concerns of businesses are all over the state.”

That doesn’t even touch the fact that many of these employers already offer paid time off. The advocacy in favor of HB0001/SB0230 may imply that small business owners provide no paid time off for part time employees, but that’s not true.

“We currently have a paid time off policy,” said George Koste. “It’s use it as you would like to use it, and you can use it in one-hour increments. In my understanding, the current law is saying sick leave has to be used at a minimum of four hours.

“[Under my organization’s plan], if somebody wants to take an hour off to go to the doctor, they have that ability without having to turn in four hours of time. I also… let my folks carry over 48 hours, or six days, every year.”

At its core, the small business issue with HB0001/SB0230 is one of administration and affordability. A one-size-fits-all mandate, business coalition members said, doesn’t mean a business can afford to comply. That means a mandate could result in job cuts or cuts in hours available to part-time workers.

“Businesses want to offer their employees competitive wages and benefits that make them happy and encourage productivity,” Tolle said. “But the reality is that not every business is able to do so because it comes with a cost. That cost must come from somewhere.”

Jorge Eduardo Castillo, founder of iOnward! Estrategias and chair of the Maryland Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, talks to WJZ-TV 13 Baltimore about why the mandatory paid leave bill is bad for business

Jorge Eduardo Castillo, founder of iOnward! Estrategias
and chair of the Maryland Hispanic Chamber of Commerce,
talks with WJZ-13 TV about why mandatory paid leave
is bad for employers.