Maryland’s new paid sick time law is now in effect, requiring employers for as many as 700,000 workers to start tracking earned leave.
Under the law, full-time workers would be able to take a full day off within six weeks.
Although the legislation requiring all businesses with 15 workers or more technically took effect Sunday, several business groups had pinned hopes on a five-month delay of the law that was approved by the Maryland Senate last week.
Those hopes were dashed Thursday morning when the House Economic Matters Committee voted down the Senate’s bill, effectively killing the measure and upholding what sick leave advocates called a crucial advancement for working families.
“It’s the law of the land,” said Del. Luke H. Clippinger, a Baltimore Democrat who sponsored it. “I do have confidence in Maryland’s businesses to work this out.”
Some business advocates are not so sure. The law took effect 30 days after the General Assembly overrode Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of the legislation, leaving state regulators and businesses less than a month to get ready.
Cailey Locklair Tolle, president of the Maryland Retailers Associations, said that when her group organized a webinar with labor lawyers on how to follow the law, the question-and-answer period afterward lasted more than 30 minutes. She said businesses of all sizes in her organization have questions about how they’re supposed to implement the law and are fearful because the law has penalties for companies that don’t comply.
“Businesses are deathly afraid because the sanctions in the bill are very serious, and ultimately the attorney general for Godsakes could bring charges against you,” Tolle said.
Tolle said some franchised companies don’t know whether the law applies to them if they have more than 15 workers overall but not that many in a single location. Others aren’t sure if they have to document the accrued time on pay stubs or if they’d be breaking the law if they gave it on a separate document.
“It’s just questions all over the place,” she said. “We don’t know what to tell our members other than: In good faith, you should start offering leave and document that.”
The Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation has been trying to develop guidance to answer those questions and more, but officials say it will take weeks if not months to figure it out.
Labor Secretary Kelly M. Schulz said her office has received 1,200 inquiries over the past two and a half weeks about how certain parts of the law apply. She said the agency plans to issue a detailed Frequently Asked Questions by the end of the day Friday. The current draft is 12 pages long.
Schulz said that while the essence of the law may be straight forward — workers accrue paid time off depending on hours worked — implementing it for different types of business models is not.
For instance, she said, if someone is paid on commission, how should a business track accrued time?
“What does a day of paid leave look like for someone who is on a comission-pay model?” Schulz said. “We have to devise an answer to that.”
Advocates for the paid sick leave law note that it leaves plenty of discretion for businesses to implement it, including awarding all workers five sick days annually that expire if they go unused.
“I think there’s enough flexibility,” said Del. Dereck E. Davis, chair of the House Economic Matters Committee and a Democrat from Prince George’s County.