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The Debate Over Paid Sick Leave In Maryland

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Your wallet or well-being? Once again the question is at the center of debate in Annapolis as Marylanders rally for and against paid sick leave on Monday night.

The fifth time could be the charm. Last year, a measure to make paid sick leave a reality got close to passing but failed at the last minute. This year, there are two options on the table, but only time will tell if either makes the cut.

For millions of working Americans, taking a "sick day" may seem like no big deal. But, right now for many Marylanders, it's the choice between either having to work while ill or risk losing their jobs.

"Cause if you don't go to work, you don't get paid," says Darlene Butler.

Butler, who's a widow trying to raise her children and is for paid sick leave, says no matter how she was feeling, losing money was never an option.

Monday night Butler joined hundreds in Annapolis in a rallying cry to fight for a paid sick time bill that would eliminate making that hard choice.

Those pushing for the bill tell WJZ with support growing for the cause, they're optimistic this is the year paid sick leave will become a reality.

"We think after 4 years, this is the year we're going to build off the strength of last year," says Elisabeth Sachs with the Job Opportunities Task Force.

Opponents argue many companies won't be able to afford it.

The Maryland Retailers Association says paying for it may prove costly in other ways.

"That means that we will have to eliminate jobs, we'll have to cut hours, we'll have to cut benefits or increase consumer costs," says Cailey Locklair Tolle, with the Maryland Retailers Association.

Most advocates are backing a version that has companies with 15 or more workers earning one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, while companies with fewer than 15 employees would have to allow unpaid time off.

The governor's proposal would apply to companies with 50 or more workers earning up to five sick days. And employers with fewer than 50 workers would be eligible for tax deductions in exchange for sick time for employees.

Many say a compromise may be the best solution.

"If a bill does what people need which is ensure part-time workers are covered, which is ensuring existing laws remain in place and making sure as many families as possible can get this benefit then we'll be for it," says Sachs.

The House version would apply to both full and part-time employees.The house did pass a paid sick time bill last session, but it died in the senate.

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