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In the span of a week last month, Maryland SHRM (MD SHRM) and A-Team member Christine Walters, JD, MAS, SHRM-SCP, SPHR and sole proprietor of FiveL Company, testified before a House subcommittee in the U.S. Congress, as well as a committee in the Maryland General Assembly. Walters, a member of the SHRM Special Expertise Labor Relations Panel, testified on Capitol Hill about the challenges HR professionals encounter with administrating the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) in their workplaces. In Annapolis she testified on legislation moving through the assembly that would mandate employers with 15 or more employees to provide annually up to 56 hours of paid sick leave to their workers.
Explaining the Challenges of the FLSA in 21st Century Workplaces
Testifying on February 16 before the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce's Subcommittee on Workforce Protections on federal wage and hour policies in the 21st century economy, Walters noted that the FLSA makes it difficult, if not impossible in many cases, for employers to provide workplace flexibility to millions of nonexempt employees. She highlighted that the FLSA limits the ability of employers to offer a biweekly workweek, as well as significantly hampers the ability of private-sector employers to offer their workers compensatory time off.
Walters also described the challenges surrounding classification decisions relating to whether an employee is exempt or nonexempt. Under the current format of objective and subjective criteria, an employer acting in good faith can easily mistakenly classify employees as exempt who, in reality, should be nonexempt, and vice versa.
Walters concluded her testimony by stating that SHRM is committed to working with Congress to modernize the outmoded FLSA in a manner that balances the needs of both employees and employers and does not produce requirements that could limit workplace flexibility.
Urging an Unfavorable Report on the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act (S.B. 230/H.B. 1)
On February 10, Walters joined a series of witnesses who testified before the Committee on Economic Matters in Annapolis on legislation that would mandate Maryland employers with 15 or more employees to provide their workers with one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. If enacted into law, Maryland would become the eighth state in the country (joining AZ, CA, CT, MA, OR, VT and WA) to levy such a mandate on employers.
In her prepared remarks, Walters, who also serves as the volunteer State Legislative Director for the Maryland SHRM State Council, noted that, "MD SHRM believes that our government should encourage paid leave—without creating new mandates on employers and employees. As has been our experience under the Family and Medical Leave Act, proscriptive attempts to micromanage how, when and under what circumstances leave must be requested, granted, documented and used are counterproductive to encouraging flexibility and innovation."
Walters concluded her statement noting, "Rather than drafting legislation that imposes mandates or penalties upon employers, we might consider offering employers some carrots, such as a tax incentive or safe harbor for employers that offer paid leave that meets all the elements" of this legislation.
As we go to press, both bills are progressing through the General Assembly, and it is likely some form of mandated paid sick leave will be presented to Governor Larry Hogan Jr. (R) for his consideration this spring.
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