While today (2/10/17) is the last days bills can be presented in the House (2/3/17 was last day for bills to be presented in the Maryland Senate), more could slip through after being reviewed by the House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee or the Senate Rules Committee, so stay tuned….
There have been several bills presented this session that appeared in prior sessions and a few new ones. I’ve highlighted those that I believe would have impact on the business community in terms of employment law/workplace regulation.
Again this year, paid sick leave is at issue in Maryland (as in other states). This time around, we have two competing bills – one is simply a repeat from last year, and the other is our Republican Governor’s compromise bill.
HB0001/SB0230 – Maryland Health Working Families Act
This is very similar to the amended bill that was in place at the end of last year’s session. It includes the following main provisions:
Governor’s bill: This is a paid leave bill – not just a paid sick/safe leave bill.
- Covers employers with 50 or more employees. Businesses with fewer than 50 employees that choose to provide such leave may be eligible for subtraction modification.
- No requirement for payout of unused, accrued leave at time of termination
- Includes pre-emption of local laws. This includes pre-emption of laws already passed by local jurisdictions. In other words, no local jurisdictions (city or county) can pass a wage or benefit law different from state law).
- Applies to employees working at least 30 hours per week. Will be counted as an employee if worked at least 120 days total, and at least 30 hours per week in the previous calendar year.
- Provides 1 hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a total of 40 hours annually.
- Does not apply to employees working less than 120 days per year (seasonal).
- Does not apply to construction industry or to employees covered by CBA’s.
- Allows for carryover of up to 40 hours per year.
- Penalty for non-compliance is $300 per employee, or $600 per employee for subsequent violations for the same employee within 3 years. Allows for injunctive relief for subsequent violations.
- Would be effective 10/1/17. At a minimum this should be changed to 1/1. An October effective date results in employer’s managing two different leave accrual systems for the last quarter of the year and reconciling the new requirement to existing policies.
An interesting development recently, and one that has garnered a bill in Maryland this year, is the building trend of states pass pre-emption laws. This is clearly in response to the ever-growing list of cities and counties passing their own wage and benefit laws, leaving those states with a patch-work quilt of regulations that cover the same issue, but provide competing and conflicting requirements.
Philadelphia has had its own paid sick leave bill since May of 2015. However, a group of PA state senators have announced they were re-introducing legislation that would stop municipalities from passing paid leave ordinances. The reasoning being that such ordinances hurt small businesses and force larger businesses that have multiple locations to comply with differing and conflicting rules. That bill was introduced in January and is now pending in the State Senate. In addition, other states such as Wisconsin, Arizona and Florida, have already passed statewide laws preventing cities and other local governments from passing their own sick leave ordinances.
As mentioned above, this bill prohibits a county or municipality from enacting a law that regulates wages or benefits that differs from state law (except laws/ordinances dealing with the local jurisdictions own employees).
Having different minimum wages in different jurisdictions will (and already does) result in unnecessary burdens on businesses with more than one location in a state (disruptions to an employer’s ability to staff locations, having to manage compensation plan for reasons unrelated to skills, knowledge, etc. and based only on the actual location; additional compliance and recordkeeping requirements, etc.).
The delegate who sponsored this bill is a Democrat, and he is taking a huge raft of sh*t from his party for doing so. I applaud his courage to at least attempt to address the issue.
This is a re-introduction of a bill presented last year requiring employers with 15 or more employees to include specific information in a job posting and to prohibit seeking salary history information from applicants.
- Employers cannot prohibit employees from discussing or disclosing the wages of the employee or other employees, and cannot take adverse action against an employee who does.
- Job posting must include the following information:
- Minimum rate of pay
- How pay is calculated (hour, shift, day week, etc.)
- If position is eligible for overtime, and what that rate is (includes other allowances such as tip credits, meals, etc.)
There is no objective data suggesting that eliminating salary history information from the hiring process or adding this information to job advertisements, furthers the goal of ending illegal pay discrepancies.
While I believe that employers should not place an inordinate amount of importance on the prior salary history of an applicant, laws prohibiting this practice will do very little to "fix" the issue they are intended to address.
HB0531 - Right to Work
Sad, but his won’t have any better chance of passing this year than the many years prior. It will prohibit an employer from requiring, as a condition of employment or continued employment, an employee or a prospective employee to join or remain a member of a labor organization, pay charges to a labor organization, or pay a amount to a third party (basically, "maintenance fees" or "agency fees".
In 1935 the National Labor Relations Act was signed into law granting American employees the right to organize and be represented by a union if they choose to do so. It is far past the time when we should also grant American employees the right to choose NOT to be represented by a union they don’t feel benefits them, and not force them to financially support that union. There are now 28 states with Right to Work laws.
In an attempt to address what they feel the Trump administration has done, or more accurately, what they fear it will do, several states are attempting to pass laws to pre-empt federal action. An example is the minimum salary required for exemption under the state Fair Labor Standards laws.
HB0665/SB0607 - Exemptions From Overtime Pay - Administrative, Executive, or Professional Capacity - Oppose
This bill raises the minimum salary to be exempt from overtime regulations to $913 per week, adjusted every 3 years.
The Maryland bill, as in the DOL’s final rule, does much the same. While it may be argued that the minimum salary amount should be increased, a more than 100% increase is unreasonable and completely negates a very important factor in determining whether an employee should be exempt from overtime – the actual duties the employee performs.
Members of Congress (both Democrats and Republicans) reacted negatively (see HR Policy Association) to the rules when first proposed. It’s pretty telling when even our elected representatives themselves say they would have difficulty with the new threshold.
The costs of compliance with such a change will force many smaller employers and non-profits to have to cut critical programming, staffing, other benefits and/or services to the public. It will most likely result in restrictions on employee work hours that will deny them flexibility and opportunities for advancement.
SB0379 - Hospitals - Changes in Status - Hospital Employee Retraining and Economic Impact Statements
While at the time, this bill only affects hospitals, it’s a "slippery slope" warning for the rest of us. If passed, I don’t think there’s much doubt it will be amended in the future to include all types of business. It requires a hospital that voluntarily converts to a freestanding medical facility or is acquired by another hospital or health system to pay a fee directly to the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation if workers are displaced.
- The fee may not exceed 0.01 percent of the gross operating revenue for the immediately preceding fiscal year.
- Fees will be paid into the Hospital Employees Training Fund.
- Requires the entity to provide an economic impact statement within 90 days of the decision to the Maryland Health Care Commission detailing the potential economic impact of the dislocation of the hospital’s employees.
I’ll be keeping an eye on these and other bills – and any that drop between now and the end of Session. Updates later!