Package of Bills Address Women's Issues
Women's Economic Security Agenda addresses pay disparities, unpaid sick leave
Jan 27, 2016
By: David Collins
Legislation promoting financial stability for women is taking center stage in Annapolis.
The Women's Economic Security Agenda addresses pay disparities, unpaid sick leave and erratic work schedules. While the package of legislation is focused on women, supporters said it's everyone's issue.
"I can't imagine why anyone would oppose this issue. We all have women in our lives," said Delegate Kriselda Valderrama, D-Prince George's County.
Hilaria Bonilla is a fast-food worker whose unpredictable schedule makes it hard to get to school events or teacher conferences for her 11-year-old daughter, Victoria.
"We need a schedule in advance. Sometimes, I have activities with my daughter at the school and I don't know the schedule, exactly how many days I'm going to work. It is difficult for me," Bonilla said.
Bonilla must also choose between going to work ill or losing pay.
"We're in a crisis when it comes to the well-being of working women," said Sen. Joanne Bensen, D-Prince George's County.
In Maryland, women make 86 cents for every dollar a man makes. The Pay Equity Act requires employers to show the difference is caused by something other than gender.
"This will close a loophole where employers cannot retaliate against an employee for asking or inquiring about a wage disparity," said Sen. Susan Lee, D-Montgomery County.
The Fair Scheduling Act requires businesses to post workers' hours well in advance.
"As drafted, it's three weeks, and we are going to work with the business community on a number everyone can rally around," said Delegate Jeff Waldstreicher, D-Montgomery County.
The Healthy Working Families Act would allow employees to earn sick pay.
"Those of you who have 10 employees or more, this is essential. We cannot allow workers to choose between work and being sick. This is a pro-business piece of legislation," said Sen. Catherine Pugh, D-Baltimore City.
"There are some people who would say the sky is falling if we pass this legislation," said Delegate Luke Clippinger, D-Baltimore City.
Supporters point to a University of Seattle study on the impact of paid sick leave there. The study found 6 percent of business decreased pay, 8 percent raised prices, 6 percent didn't provide pay raises and 7 percent left because of the mandate.
Another bill creates a medical leave insurance fund.
"It's a payroll tax that is extremely small, that the employee only pays. So it's a universal insurance pool," said Delegate Ariana Kelly, D-Montgomery County.
Some of the bills already have 80 co-sponsors in the House and 29 co-sponsors in the Senate.