Proposed legislation would change sick leave requirements for Md. seasonal workers

MARYLAND – The business community on the Lower Eastern Shore is supporting a bill concerning sick time requirements for seasonal workers. Currently, seasonal and J1 workers must work for 106 days before they can get five days sick leave. House Bill 1015 would increase that number of days to 120.

“These employees come in, they work during the busy season, and then they either go back to school, or if they’re J1 workers, they go back overseas. This bill was intended to provide some provisions for sick and safe leave during the period that they’re here working as seasonal workers,” said President and CEO of Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce, Bill Chambers.

106 days is an “arbitrary” number, says Chambers. He adds it would not cover the summer season for Maryland’s resort towns.

“Nobody can really explain this 106. What does that match up with? It should be 120, which typically would carry a seasonal worker from mid-May through the end of August, Labor Day, which is typically ‘the season,'” said Chambers. “106 was a killer because at 106 [days], that employee could literally just take five days off. At the end of the season, we’re talking about August, that’s very difficult for seasonal businesses. They can’t replace those folks.”

While Chambers says this legislation is a “technical fix” to the system, he does foresee some opposition. “I think their concern would be expanding it to 120, and maybe the business community comes back in a few years and wants 150, which I don’t believe would happen. 120 was always the figure that we reluctantly agreed upon,” he said.

The bill currently sits in the House Economic Matters Committee.

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