Maine Paid Sick Leave Bill Introduced

The text of the Maine PSL bill, SP 380, is finally available. After the first couple of reads, a few observations:

  • The PSL requirement would apply to employers with at least 50 employees, similar to Connecticut’s law and Maryland Governor Hogan’s Commonsense Paid Leave bill. Smaller employers must provide the same benefit, but unpaid.
  • The bill denies sick leave, paid or unpaid, to the approximately 64,000 Maine employees represented by a union. To repeat my entreaty in a previous post, help me understand the logic of excluding bargaining unit employees from a paid sick leave law. Some of those employees are undoubtedly in relatively low wage service jobs, the very people PSL laws are intended to help.
  • Covered employees can use PSL to care for their own medical needs or those of any “family member,” a term undefined in the bill although the bill makes clear that the term is not limited to immediate family members.
  • The bill is very brief, barely more than a page, and authorizes the Department of Labor to enact regulations.
  • The bill does not have a “safe harbor” for employers who already provide the leave required by the law. Does that mean the bill requires a second helping of leave or will that be addressed in the regulations. Unclear.maine-978121_1920

What are the chances of the Maine law being enacted this session? Using my cryptic and always dangerous political analysis, described generally here, Maine is a blue state, having cast 47.8% of its votes last November for Secretary Clinton. Maine Governor Paul LePage is Republican. The Republicans have a one-vote majority in the Senate. Democrats have a majority in the House. Given that political landscape, I speculate that there is less than an even chance that Maine will enact a PSL law this session.

But please, someone, help me understand why the Democratic drafter of this bill would exclude all bargaining unit employees from receiving its benefit?

Nietzsche and Paid Sick Leave

Writing about PSL bills being introduced in legislatures reminds me of the 19th century Prussian philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s cosmological doctrine of eternal recurrence: everything will repeat and recur, forever. Think Groundhog Day.

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PSL bills are introduced regularly, sometimes for the second, third or fourth time. Proponents espouse passionately some version of the mantra that an employee should not have to choose between his or her health or family’s health and a paycheck. Opponents argue as passionately that imposing a PSL requirement will lead to job loss, business closures and hurt the very people PSL was intended to help. Advocacy groups do PSL impact studies. Not surprisingly, the study outcomes always support the advocacy group’s position on PSL. And on and on it goes.

With a hat tip to Nietzsche, at least nine PSL bills have been introduced recently in state legislatures. I have already reported here and here on PSL bills in Alaska, Indiana, Maryland and Nevada. Bills have also been introduced in Maine, Michigan, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and South Carolina. Some bill sponsors, those in “trifecta” Republican states especially, must know that their bills have little chance of being enacted but that does not seem to deter them. There is always next session. Eternal recurrence.

In Michigan, Senate Bill No. 212, the “paid sick leave” act, would require all employers other than the federal government, effective January 1, 2018, to allow employees to accrue PSL at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked, to a maximum of 40 hours for employees of employers with fewer than ten employees, and 72 hours for employees of employers with at least ten employees. Continue reading