Paid sick leave opt-out bill debated during House committee hearing

The House Education and the Workforce Committee heard testimony Dec. 6 on recently introduced legislation that would allow employers to opt out of state and local paid sick leave laws if they provide a certain level of paid leave and at least one flexible work arrangement.

Paid sick leave notably figured into the discussion of the Workflex in the 21st Century Act (H.R. 4219), introduced Nov. 2 by Reps. Mimi Walters (R-CA), Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA).

Currently, eight states, the District of Columbia and a number of localities guarantee paid sick leave for workers. Montgomery County (MD) Council President Hans Riemer (D), whose county is among that number, was critical of the bill during his testimony, claiming it would “create an off-ramp for employers to evade state and local laws presently covering millions of people.”

“We strongly oppose H.R. 4219, which would undermine our paid sick days law and turn back the clock for more than 13 million working people who have gained access to paid sick days through laws passed in eight states and 32 local jurisdictions,” Riemer said. “H.R. 4219 does not provide paid sick days – it takes them away. H.R. 4219 takes away important rights to sick leave that local and state governments have granted to their residents – rights that were granted using sovereignty that belongs to us.”

Bill supporters include Barbara Brickmeier, vice president for human resources and business development at Armonk, NY-based IBM Corp. Brickmeier said nearly all of the various paid sick leave requirements – in addition to a federal Executive Order granting paid sick leave to federal contractors – apply to IBM employees. Further, each requirement is different, creating what Brickmeier called “a complex obstacle course for employers, particularly multistate employers.”

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