Cape Elizabeth lawmaker pushes paid sick leave requirement

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CAPE ELIZABETH — A local lawmaker is introducing legislation to provide paid sick leave for all Maine residents. 

State Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth, said the bill is at the revisor’s office, where it will be edited according to the style necessary for legislative protocol. It will be given a bill number and, later, a hearing.

It’s the intent of the bill that matters, Millett said. 

“Sick leave is a benefit white-collar professionals take for granted. But for thousands and thousands of Mainers, particularly low-income workers, a lack of access to sick leave means the decision to take time off from work to recover from illness or take care of a sick child or parent is a choice between the health of their families and their financial security,” Millett said in a prepared statement.

The bill would require companies with 50 or more employees to offer paid sick leave. In Maine, about 230,000 workers would qualify.

For businesses with fewer than 50 employees, workers could take unpaid time off for illness or to care for a sick family member. 

Minority Leader Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, supports the bill, as do Democratic Sens. Nate Libby of Lewiston, Shenna Bellows of Manchester, Benjamin Chipman of Portland and David Miramant of Camden, according to Millett.

But Peter Gore, vice president of government relations at the Maine Chamber of Commerce, said a law enacted in Maine in the early 2000s already allows for paid sick time for workers. Paid leave can be used for several purposes by an employee, including for personal or family illness, Gore said.

“The provision allows an employee who gets any kind of paid leave to use it to take care of themselves or a family member, up to 40 hours in a 12-month period, without retaliation,” Gore said.

A bill such as Millett’s would add more costs for employers because dedicated sick leave funds would need to be set aside, he said.

Millett said if workers come in sick because they’re afraid of losing pay or a job, productivity is reduced. One ill employee can make other employees sick.

Earned sick time is a feature in the bill, she noted: Employees would earn some sick time for every 30 hours worked.

She said business owners who support her bill include Dory Waxman of Old Port Wool & Textile, and American Roots, both in Portland. 

Depending on the season, Waxman said in a statement, both companies employ up to 15 people. Paid sick leave is offered to all employees.

“If our small businesses can do it, others can too,” she said. “Our policy helps us attract, train, and retain workers who give us 100 percent. We do it not only because of the morale and productivity benefits for our businesses, but because it’s the right thing to do.”

Lisa D. Connell can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or Follow Lisa on Twitter: @connell_ld.


  • Chew H Bird

    People working remotely from home offices don’t infect other people at work… We need legislation that makes sense going forward instead of simply adding costs to smaller businesses.

    • 101indianscout

      I agree that a home office works for some, but there are too many jobs that require you to be there such as tradesmen. You just can’t plumb a site from home. And, I’m not aware of too many of the trades in support of this with the exception of the union guys.

      • Chew H Bird

        You are correct. I just think that when legislation is crafted, we need to encompass not only current needs but do our best to provide a basis for changes that are happening in the workforce.

        Most of my work is out of state, from my home in Maine, (for example).

    • Scott Harriman

      A business with 50+ employees is not “small”.

      • Chew H Bird

        It may not be small as in a micro business, but the resources of a 50 person company depend greatly on the type of industry and their market. I have 50 person businesses as clients and their ability to afford benefits varies greatly on a year to year basis, and sometimes on a quarterly basis… Just because a 50 person company may seem large to you and me on a personal basis, in the corporate world they are very small fish.

  • Mainer1

    She is a tax and spend liberal who has no idea of the business and employment ramifications of her stupid actions. She makes me sick, I need sick leave!!

    • 101indianscout

      Yes, she is a perfect example of what’s wrong today with people in government who have never run a business. They call themselves pubic servants, but don’t want a servants pay for themselves. Perhaps Maine should follow New Hampshire in how to pay our representatives. Now there is a public servant.

  • Scott Harriman

    Nice non sequitur, Peter Gore.

    This bill’s aim is to help those workers who do not already have paid sick leave.