Cape Elizabeth lawmaker's sick leave legislation heads to Senate

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AUGUSTA — A bill to bring universal sick leave to all Mainers is moving forward.

LD 1159, “An Act to Support Healthy Workplaces and Healthy Families by Providing Paid Sick Leave to Certain Employees,” was sponsored by state Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth. It received initial approval from the Legislature’s Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee. 

The panel’s 5-4 vote fell along party lines: five Democrats to four Republicans. Four absent committee members — two from each party — were expected to cast their votes on the bill at a later date.

It would require employers to let workers accumulate one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked.

Employees could use the sick time to care for themselves or a family member without fear of recrimination. The bill calls also for time off to look after a victim of sexual or domestic abuse.

A company’s size would determine if the sick leave is paid or not. Companies with 50 or more employees would be required to offer paid sick leave, while companies with fewer than 50 employees would be required to offer sick leave without pay.

“Illness is a fact of life, and the United States is one of the only advanced countries in the world that doesn’t guarantee workers the ability to take time off to care for themselves or their families when they get sick,” Millett said in a prepared statement. “Working while sick is bad for the individual, the workplace and the community. This bill corrects a longtime workplace injustice, and I’m grateful to the majority of the committee who supported it.”

Eliza Townsend of the Maine Women’s Lobby, Lois Kilby-Chesley of the Maine Education Association and Matt Schlobohm of the Maine AFL-CIO testified in support of the bill. 

But when the bill was introduced in March, Peter Gore, Maine Chamber of Commerce vice president of government relations, said a state law already allows for paid sick time.

Gore said in the early 2000s lawmakers enacted a bill allowing paid sick leave that could be used for several purposes by an employee, including for personal or family illness. 

LD 1159 now heads to the full Senate for a vote.

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

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