In Focus: State Lawmakers Debate More Paid-Sick-Leave Bills

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Federal law doesn't require employers to offer workers paid sick leave, but states and cities across the country have been approving—or at least considering—laws that obligate employers to provide such leave.

Whether passed through the state legislature or ballot measures, seven states and Washington, D.C., currently have paid-sick-leave laws. Private employers in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont and Washington must (or will soon have to) offer some amount of paid sick leave. A number of cities also have their own related laws.

[SHRM members-only how-to guide: How to Comply with California's Paid Sick Leave Requirements]

Proponents of mandatory paid sick leave say that laws like this promote a healthy, productive workplace. Opponents, however, argue that forcing employers to provide paid leave drives up payroll costs and creates scheduling issues for employers and workers alike.

Here's a look at what's happening at the state level as Democrats push to expand paid leave laws and Republicans seek to rein them in.

Maine Sick Leave Bill Is in the Works

Maine state Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth, said she plans to introduce a paid-sick-leave bill that would apply to businesses with 50 or more employees. The bill would also require smaller businesses to give workers unpaid leave. Millett said many white-collar professionals take sick-leave benefits for granted, but low-income workers often have to choose between health and financial security. (The Forecaster)

Maryland Governor Opposes Paid-Sick-Leave Bills

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan said he will veto two paid-sick-leave bills making their way through each chamber of the Maryland legislature. He claims the bills are bad for businesses and jobs because they require small employers (with as few as 15 workers) to provide the leave without offering tax cuts or other incentives to employers. Hogan said he would support a measure that applies to businesses with 50 or more employees and gives tax incentives to small businesses that voluntarily offer paid sick leave.  (The Washington Post)

Michigan Democrats Continue to Push for Paid Leave

Michigan Democrats introduced a bill to provide workers in the state with one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. The proposed law would apply to part-time and full-time workers but would allow small businesses to cap annual accruals at a lower rate than large businesses. Similar legislation failed during the previous session, but the bill's sponsors believe that more people now view this as a nonpartisan issue. (ABC 12)

Minnesota Republicans Target Local Ordinances

Minnesota's Republican-controlled House of Representatives has passed a bill that would halt Minneapolis' and St. Paul's minimum wage and paid-sick-leave laws. The proposed legislation would prevent cities from passing their own labor regulations. "Republican Rep. Jim Nash of Waconia said city-by-city variation in labor law threatened the very jobs that worker advocates were trying to improve," MPR News reports. (MPR News)

Pennsylvania Lawmakers Seek to Quash City Laws

A bill making its way through the Pennsylvania state senate would also prohibit municipalities in the state from enacting workplace leave laws that go beyond what is required by federal or state laws. In its current iteration, the Republican-backed bill would apply retroactively, meaning that Philadelphia's existing ordinance and Pittsburgh's pending paid-sick-leave law would be deemed null and void. "The measure's supporters say labor policy should be established at the state and federal level to provide uniformity for businesses," the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

 

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