Tuesday, March 21, 2023
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Dueling Sick Leave Bills

Two Bills Introduce Sick Leave Requirements for New Mexico Employers


Making their rounds once again through the Roundhouse are paid family and medical sick leave bills that would require all employers in the state to provide paid time off for all employees.

Say What?

Sen. Mimi Stewart (D-Bernalillo) joined State Reps. Christine Chandler (D-Los Alamos), and Daymon Ely (D-Bernalillo) to introduce House Bill 20, the Healthy Workplaces Act, providing paid sick leave bill for workers. Not to be outdone, State Reps. Angelica Rubio (D-Doña Ana), G. Andres Romero (D-Bernalillo) and Patricia Roybal Caballero (D-Bernalillo) have a different version for consideration, HB37.

Both HB 20 and HB 37 would provide one hour of sick leave per 30 hours worked. Similar bills circled the chambers unsuccessfully in 2019 and 2020.

The two bills introduced this year are the same in that they require all employers with 10 or fewer employees to provide each employee 40 hours of annual sick leave. Under the Healthy Workplace Act bill (HB 20), employers with more than 10 worker bees are required to provide 64 hours of annual leave. In the Paid Sick Leave bill (HB 37) that amount would cap at 56 hours of annual sick leave for those businesses with more than 10 employees. Employers are free to offer more generous sick leave packages. House Bill 37 sets up a state trust fund that employees can contribute to and then draw on later.

The two bills are similar in many ways, as they both outline ways to do this with employers, employees and within the Department of Workforce Solutions. The bills differ in other ways, but not significantly, and it makes this reporter wonder why the Democrats could not just get together and smash out a compromise into one comprehensive bill.

No More Pain!

It seems that no matter which paid sick leave bill hits the streets, some employers squawk like the sky is falling. A representative from the New Mexico Business Coalition has said that the timing for a bill of this sort is not good and adds one more burden to the backs of businesses. The Business Coalition says that this additional economic hit would be difficult for businesses to deal with—considering the pandemic, along with the recent raise in minimum wage. They say this type of legislation might put some businesses under the rug.

On the flip side, minimum wage and lower-wage workers have been begging for relief, as they are less likely to be able to take time off if they, or their children, are sick. Supporters of the bill say that this should have been in place prior to the pandemic, as many of those who have kept our cupboards and toilet paper rolls full would have been better able to stay healthy. Sponsors of the bill say it is really a win/win for employers, because if their workers are healthy and able to concentrate on work, then they are better worker bees. They also say offering such packages draws and keeps good employees.

Who’s On First?

Bernalillo County has already passed a similar bill making it a law to provide sick leave. The City of Albuquerque kicked the sick leave tin can down the road and is set to debate it at an upcoming meeting. According to representatives from OLÉ, a nonprofit and community organizing group advocating for healthy families, the United States is one of the few developed countries that lacks a national policy for paid sick leave. It has been reported that some of the workers who built the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs got state-supported healthcare and sick leave. Currently there are 11 states plus Washington, D.C. and more than 30 municipalities that require paid sick leave.

Where To Now?

These two bills are in their infancies. Once the legislature gets up and running, tweaks—hopefully not twerks—will happen to the bills. Until we know which bill will prevail, we will not know how it will impact our working lives.

Whichever bill passes will only go that far—unless the governor signs the bill. So what has Madame Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said about this idea? It is expected that the gov would sign such a bill, as she implemented paid parental leave last year. House Bill 37 would go into effect immediately upon signing and House Bill 20 would go into effect July 1, 2021. Grab some popcorn and stay tuned.


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