- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 3, 2015

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - The pain in Megan Sennett’s lower back wasn’t cause for concern. After all, the single mother of three was used to feeling sore from her part-time job as a fitness coach.

A spiked fever, however, sent her to the doctor, who told her she had a kidney infection and would need to take 10 days off.

“I thought if I’m not working, I’m not getting paid,” said Sennett, an Annapolis resident who juggles three jobs. “I told him, ‘I can give you a week.’”

Sennett’s story is one of many - more than 700,000 according to a 2015 study - in which workers in Maryland find themselves choosing between taking care of themselves or taking home a smaller paycheck because their employer does not offer paid sick leave.

Sennett, 41, shared her story Tuesday a news conference as part of a push from the Working Matters coalition to raise support for the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act. The legislation would require Maryland businesses with 10 or more employees to offer up to a week of earned paid sick leave.

“Families, individuals, working mothers, should not have to make a choice when it comes to issues like this,” said Sen. Catherine Pugh, D-Baltimore, who is sponsoring the legislation.

Working Matters also released data from a cost-benefit analysis conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. The study, which analyzed more than a half-dozen national surveys from the past five years, employers in Maryland would save $13.3 million annually by providing paid sick leave.

Critics of the legislation argue that small businesses would still feel financial pressure, which could translate into higher prices or a reduction in workforce to offset costs.

“The reality is, a vast majority of businesses provide some form of leave,” said Deriece Pate Bennett, vice president of government affairs for the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, during a hearing before a Senate committee. “Those that do not simply cannot afford it.”

Other opponents argued that larger multistate companies, many with their own sick leave policies, could cause confusion between the state’s requirements and those of the employer.

Shelby Skeabeck, a lawyer with the Baltimore-based firm Shaw Rosenthal LLP, said her employment and labor firm opposed the bill in part because it is too broad.

“It’s clear this is not just about addressing a choice of coming to work sick or staying home,” Skeabeck said. “This bill is anti-business.”

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