How the Women's Economic Security Agenda Could Impact Maryland Small Business

Date: March 01, 2016 Last Edit: March 02, 2016

Series of labor proposals would mean greater liability and less freedom for businesses.

How the Women’s Economic Security Agenda Could Impact Maryland Small Business

If the bills proposed under the Women’s Economic Security Agenda, currently being pushed by a group of Maryland legislators, are approved, business owners in Maryland could see higher costs, greater potential for lawsuits and more government influence over how they run their businesses.

The Women’s Economic Security Agenda consists of equal pay, paid leave and predictive scheduling proposals. Under these bills, employees would have more avenues for bringing complaints or lawsuits about pay disparities, certain businesses would have to offer up to seven days of paid sick leave, workers on unpaid family and medical leave could continue drawing income and employers must schedule workers’ shifts weeks in advance.

NFIB Maryland State Director Mike O’Halloran recently presented the small business owner perspective on this legislation on WYPR public radio. The interview focused on the equal pay and predictive scheduling portions of the agenda. Here’s a look at some of the key problems for small business owners.

Equal Pay

While NFIB and its members support the principle that an equal day’s work deserves and equal day’s pay, the fine print of the equal pay bill gives small business owners heartburn. An employer may be paying one employee more than another due to certain skills and abilities that, in the employer’s view, earn them the right to earn more money. However, under this bill, if another employee feels discriminated against for this kind of pay disparity, they can file a lawsuit against the employer without due process for the business owner.

Also, if a business owner has multiple satellite locations in one state and is paying different wages based on the disparate costs of living across the state, an employee could bring a lawsuit demanding to be paid the same as someone in an area that has a higher cost of living.

Ultimately, O’Halloran says, the bill ceases to realize the economic realities facing business owners and doesn’t recognize all the myriad of reasons an employer pays an employee a certain amount. For small business owners, the bill takes the decision about what to pay employees out of their hands and puts it into the hands of a judge. And it’s unnecessary to begin with because there are already a variety of state and federal laws protecting workers from gender discrimination.

Fair Scheduling

Under the predictive scheduling bill, employers would have to give employees three weeks’ notice about their schedule. While appealing in theory, the reality of the demands of running a business do not typically allow for that much advance notice.

For example, if an employee had to give up a shift to a coworker at the last minute because of a death in the family, the employer would have to pay extra wages to the employee picking up the shift without advance notice. Similar situations often arise, and this bill would mean higher costs for business owners.

At the end of the day, this is an issue that small business owners and their employees are already solving on their own by trading shifts, O’Halloran says. They don’t need government mandates and extra payment liabilities to deal with.

Stay tuned for updates and action alerts on these issues.

Related Content: Small Business News | Economy | Labor | Maryland

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