Ocean City Government Bracing For Paid Sick Leave Bill’s Fiscal Impact

Ocean City Government Bracing For Paid Sick Leave Bill’s Fiscal Impact
File photo by Chris Parypa

OCEAN CITY — The presumption all along has been the paid sick leave bill would impact the town’s hospitality industry the most, but it was learned last week it could have a big fiscal impact on government, too.

The Maryland Healthy Working Families Act, or paid sick leave bill, requires a business with over 14 employees to provide a policy under which an employee earns at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours he or she works. The initiative would make all employees who work at least 106 days eligible for an hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.

Ostensibly, seasonal part-time employees could accrue a significant amount of paid sick leave throughout the season and take paid leave time at the end of the summer when their employers need them the most. While the bill applies statewide, it was watched closely and strongly opposed in the resort area where it could have serious repercussions.

During a budget work session last week, Human Resources Director Wayne Evans was asked if his department was tracking the potential impact of the paid sick leave bill. Naturally, the town hires hundreds of seasonal part-time employees to clean the beach and Boardwalk, drive municipal buses and trams and countless other jobs needed to keep the resort rolling during the summer season.

“We’re looking at the temporary employees we bring in each season as a whole,” he said. “We could be looking at an indirect cost of $225,000 or so. Out of this group, they might work 800 hours and they earn an hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked. They could potentially earn three days of sick leave during the course of the year.”

Evans said the estimated $225,000 cost to the town was indirectly related to covering the hours of those who choose to exercise their right to accrued paid sick leave under the law.

“There is an indirect expense,” he said. “It’s more like time not worked rather than payroll spent, but those hours have to be made up somewhere.”

When asked if he anticipated an increase in the number of part-time employees in the fire department, Evans said that was a distinct possibility with the schedule change.

“That’s a good question,” he said. “With some of the schedule changes, we could have to employ more people to cover the same number of hours.”

When asked if he anticipated some turnover in the fire department ranks because of the shift changes, Evans said there has been some already.

“We are seeing some turnover as a result of that,” he said. “We have had some people in the fire department leave, maybe for family reasons. They can’t work that schedule or maybe it interferes with their full-time job. It’s just a handful of people. One full-time employee left to go to another department.”

Evans said the estimated $225,000 indirect cost of the paid sick leave bill included general part-time employees and not part-time firefighters and paramedics. When that number, estimated at around $45,000 is added, the total swells to $270,000.

Councilman Wayne Hartman said he expected that estimate could be low considering it might take paying other employees overtime to cover the workload and Evans agreed.

“That’s a direct cost,” he said. “If we have to pay somebody time-and-a-half to do the work they are not doing, it could be $400,000. That one action of the General Assembly could cost the town $400,000.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.