Of all the legislative debates concerning paid sick leave this legislative term, the debate in Maryland seems to have the most fury. Republican Governor Larry Hogan, likely sensing that the legislature, with large Democratic majorities in each chamber, might very well enact a PSL law this session, has offered his own proposal, The Common Sense Paid Leave Act. Who can possibly oppose a law based on common sense? Let’s take a closer look.
In the forty or so paid sick leave laws, ordinances and regulations that have been enacted nationwide, each itemizes the reasons for which an employee may use accrued leave. Governor Hogan’s “common sense” bill dispenses with substantive limitation. Employees may use accrued time “for any reason,” any at all. Its title does not include any connection to “sick.” This absence is a bit surprising since a December 7, 2016 press release from the Governor’s office refers to the need to develop a “common sense approach to paid sick leave.” Indeed, the press release is titled: “Governor Larry Hogan Announces Common Sense Paid Sick Leave Legislation.”
Other PSL laws include a definition of “family member” because employees can use accrued time for reasons related to the health condition of a family member. The Governor’s bill does not define “family member” since the definition would be superfluous. Also, other PSL laws require an employee to give the employer notice of the need to use accrued time. These requirements typically require advance notice for foreseeable use and notice “as soon as practicable” for unforeseeable use. The Governor’s bill has no notice requirements. An employee can merely report that he or she will not be in today because he or she decided to go to the O’s ballgame or because it is a beautiful day at the beach. The bill allows the Commissioner of Labor and Industry to adopt regulations and one would hope that this “common sense”notice requirement would be included in regulations.
I suspect, and this is pure speculation, otherwise known as a “fact-free” discussion, that the Governor eliminated all restrictions on use to gain support for his limiting the application of the bill to employers with at least 50 employees. That may be good politics but referring to a bill that allows an employee to take accrued paid time off for any reason whatsoever as a “common sense” approach seems a bit much. Perhaps it should have been titled the “Star Trek Paid Leave Act” because it certainly goes where no paid leave bill has gone before.