Maryland Governor Vetoes Earned Sick Time Bill

By Zoe Ziliak Michel

After Maryland legislators passed the Healthy Working Families Act in both chambers earlier this year, Governor Larry Hogan vetoed the bill yesterday, preventing 750,000 Maryland workers from gaining the right to earn paid sick time. Had Hogan signed the bill, workers would have gotten this protection on January 1. Instead, the legislature will now have to mount a veto override effort in January 2018.

Hogan’s veto runs contrary to both the will of the state’s legislators, and that of the public and employers. A University of Maryland-Washington Post poll found that 84 percent of Marylanders support giving workers at businesses with at least 15 employees paid sick time, as the Healthy Working Families Act would ensure. And over 50 Maryland business owners have signed on in support of the act through the Working Matters Coalition, recognizing that paid sick time improves health and morale in their businesses. Working Matters Coalition Director Liz Richards stated, “By vetoing the Healthy Working Families Act, Governor Hogan has turned his back on 750,000 working Marylanders facing impossible choices between their job and their family because they are not afforded the basic dignity of being able to take a day off when they’re sick. Governor Hogan’s decision protects an indefensible status quo and prevents Maryland families, businesses, and communities from reaping the benefits of this bill as soon as possible.”

Luckily, the governor’s veto does not close the door on paid sick days for Maryland workers. Both chambers of the legislature passed the bill with veto-proof majorities. Thus, Maryland workers will likely still gain the right to care for themselves and their families without losing a day’s pay if, as anticipated, the legislature overturns the veto in the 2018 legislative session. Specifically, the law will allow workers at businesses with at least 15 employees to earn one hour of paid, job-protected sick time for every 30 hours worked, with a cap of 5 days (40 hours) earned per year. The leave can also be used as “safe time” to seek services necessary due to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. Employees of smaller businesses will earn job-protected sick and safe time as well, though it may be unpaid.

Ample evidence shows that paid sick time improves public health, increases access to preventive care—and is good for businesses’ bottom line.  Governor Hogan’s veto of the Healthy Working Families Act runs contrary to the interests of many Maryland constituencies—and defies common sense. Seven other states and over two dozen cities and counties have already recognized the benefits of guaranteeing paid sick time for their residents. Later this year, Rhode Island may pass similar legislation. For now, though, too many Maryland workers will still have to choose between their health and their paycheck.