Del. Aruna Miller: Maryland Healthy Working Families Act Protects Victims Of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault

During the last legislative session, my colleagues and I worked hard to pass paid sick leave for all Marylanders. We believed then, and continue to believe despite Governor Hogan’s veto, that getting sick should not mean losing your job. There are other circumstances in life that also should not result in job loss, including domestic violence, and this bill would address those needs as well.

People who go through violence at home often have medical needs, to seek alternate housing or shelter, time to cooperate with law enforcement and the judicial system. All of this takes time away from their jobs, and the last thing they need to worry about is losing their job or any of their pay. There are also times people have to help family members extract themselves from these dangerous situations, and that also requires time away from a job and understanding. One of the focuses of my career has been on helping victims of domestic violence, and I am proud that HB 1 Maryland Healthy Working Families Act, or the Sick and Safe Act, will do just that.

The “safe” part of this bill is essential because it covers safe leave in the cases that an employee needs to miss work due to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking against the employee or the employee’s family member. Leave can be used so that an employee can obtain or help a family member obtain medical or mental health attention, services from a victim services organization, legal services or proceedings—related to or resulting from the domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.

Governor Hogan’s bill does not provide specific leave following domestic violence, sexual violence or stalking, or services related to those events. It simply provides 5 days of paid leave, with no specific purpose (sick or safe) to those working for businesses with more than 50 employees in one location. For employees at smaller (less than 50 which is a vast majority of MD employers), there is no leave provided, job-protected nor paid. We all know that domestic violence does not care if you work at a big company or a small one, and the most critical time for its victims is when they are leaving a dangerous situation. We simply cannot allow employees going through such a traumatic event to also worry that they will lose their jobs.

As we near the 2018 Legislative Session, I urge my colleagues to remember that all Marylanders are deserving of equal protection under the law. It’s why I’m supporting the veto override campaign.