Guest Commentary: Hogan’s Veto Deprives Five-Sixths of Md. Workers

By Montgomery County Councilmember George Leventhal

Public health is not well served when employees show up for work sick. Unfortunately, Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of the paid sick leave bill means that too many Marylanders will continue to face the risk of losing their job if they must take a day off due to their own illness or the illness of a family member.

When the Montgomery County Council took up the sick and safe leave law in 2015, business community advocates urged us to wait and see what the legislature would do on the issue. I’m glad we didn’t wait. When a recalcitrant state government fails to protect its residents, it is appropriate for local government to act.

Since October 1, 2016, an estimated 100,000 Montgomery County workers are eligible to earn up to 56 hours per year – and to use up to 80 hours per year — of paid sick leave, at a rate of one hour earned for every 30 hours worked. Leave may be taken to care for an employee’s own mental or physical illness or that of a family member, for preventive medical visits, in the case of a public health emergency affecting the employee’s place of work or the school or place of work of a family member, and to obtain services, including legal services, following domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. Leave may also be taken for birth, adoption, foster care, or bonding with the employee’s child. Businesses with fewer than five employees must allow workers to earn 32 hours of paid leave and 24 hours of unpaid leave.

Montgomery County’s law provides the strongest employee paid sick leave protection in the United States. Governor Hogan’s original paid sick leave proposal would have preempted Montgomery County’s law and would have applied more limited paid sick leave only to businesses with 50 employees or more: which would exclude 95 percent of Montgomery County businesses!

At this point, General Assembly Democrats appear narrowly to hold the margin of votes necessary to override Governor Hogan’s veto of the paid sick leave bill, which fortunately would leave Montgomery County’s stronger law untouched. Let’s hope the other five-sixths of the state’s population are soon eligible for the strong employee protection Montgomery County workers already enjoy.

George Leventhal, a Democrat, has held an at-large seat on the Montgomery County Council since 2003.

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