Bill Aims to Amend County’s Sick Leave Legislation to Exempt Seasonal Workers

Change would alter language in the law that goes into effect in October

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County Council members are mulling changes to Montgomery County’s law that mandates employers provide sick leave as part of an attempt to ease the burden on seasonal employers.

Council members George Leventhal and Roger Berliner are sponsoring a bill, which was introduced Tuesday, that would change the language in the sick leave law that goes into effect Oct. 1. A public hearing on the bill is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. July 19 at the council office building in Rockville.

The council’s sick leave bill was seen as one of the strongest in the nation when it was approved in June 2015 because it requires all businesses with five or more employees to provide up to seven days of paid sick leave and businesses with fewer than five employees to provide up to four days of paid sick leave.

However, it faced pushback from members of the business community, especially the county’s Chambers of Commerce, who said it would put the county’s businesses at a disadvantage when compared to neighboring jurisdictions that don’t have as strict paid sick leave laws.

The proposed changes would exempt seasonal workers from the law’s requirement that employers provide paid sick days according to a formula. Under the formula, employers have to provide paid sick days at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours an employee works in the county, up to 56 hours of paid leave per year. The law doesn’t take effect until Oct. 1 to give businesses time to adapt.

The changes would apply specifically to employees of businesses or recreational programs that operate for less than 120 days per year—such as summer camps or a swimming pool, according to a council memo.

"It's just not reasonable to expect the employers of summer camp counselors and lifeguards and those kinds of jobs to keep track and accumulate the length of time an employee serves," Leventhal said, noting also that the jobs are "not generally considered career positions."

The changes also address questions about how employees who are paid exclusively by sales commissions would be handled under the law. According to the proposed bill, such employees would only earn unpaid sick leave.

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