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Bill requiring Delaware employers to provide sick time and safety leave heads to the House floor

Delaware Legislative Hall
Delaware Public Media
Delaware Legislative Hall

A bill requiring all Delaware employers to provide employees with sick time and safety leave clears the House Labor Committee.

State Rep. Eric Morrison (D-Glasgow) introduced legislationthat would require employers to provide employees with a minimum of 1 hour of earned sick time and safety leave for every 30 hours worked, unless their benefits package already meets these minimum requirements.

Under the bill, employers may cap the number of hours earned per year at 40 and may require employees to have been employed at least 90 days before they may take earned sick leave.

The legislation also provides an exception for businesses that have less than 10 employees, in which case the time may be unpaid, job-protected time instead of paid time.

Republican lawmakers expressed concerns over the strain the regulations may put on small businesses in the state, as well as that the bill itself is overreaching into the private sector.

"My main focus are the people that are trying to bing themselves up in life and have a decent life. How do you do that when you can't get a job? How do you do that when an employer is under such stress that they don't want to open a business or they're forced to shut down a business or they're not going to expand they're hiring because of all the requirements that are being put on them?" State Rep. Rich Collins (R-Millsboro) said.

Several small business owners came and spoke in opposition of the bill, as well as many of Delaware's Chambers of Commerce, including the Central Delaware Chapter President Dina Vendetti.

“The chamber is deeply concerned about this bill because it’s likely to have a sweeping and disproportionately negative impact on our small business community as it places a tremendous burden on employers who are already struggling to maintain a steady, dependable, reliable workforce," Vendetti said, who requested Morrison consider raising the paid time exception to 25 employees instead of less than 10.

Certified Public Accountant Angela Hodges of Milford said she provides services for around a 100 small businesses in Delaware, and she believes all of their costs would increase if this bill was passed.

"Tracking this is going to be a nightmare for them. It's not easy to do in Quickbooks, it's not easy to do in other payroll softwares. You have to understand how these things work before you implement them," Hodges said.

President/CEO of the Delaware Restaurant Association Carrie Leishman voiced similar concerns, saying the restaurant industry relies on flexibility to survive: "We are against this bill. Restaurant's are unique businesses. We're razor thin margins. We don't have HR directors. And yes, we value the flexibility and so do the people that work for us. I urge the committee to vote against this bill."

Morrison refuted these claims, arguing other states have implemented similar guidelines and have found a way to make it work.

“We have somehow managed to do this in over 140 other nations, 18 states, DC – this is not impossible. This is not any kind of impossible task. Like I said, I helped manage a small business. These things can be done – it’s the will to get them done," he said.

Gubernatorial candidate Collin O'Mara spoke in favor of the bill, explaining when he was Delaware's Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary, they implemented a similar sick leave policy for seasonal and part-time workers and saw a quick return to work, increased productivity, engagement with customers improved and overall the agency's bottom line improved.

"There's a lot of folks that would love to be here today, but they can't because they're working, and they can't take time off because they don't have leave to take," O'Mara added.

Morrison said over the past three years, every Delaware worker he has talked to has been in favor of this legislation. He also believes there's a misconception that workers would grossly over utilize paid sick leave.

"In 2022, a major study was conducted regarding states that have enacted paid sick time laws in recent years. That study found that on average, employees newly granted five days of sick time per year used just two of those days per year," he said.

Morrison also expressed he does not feel any employee should have to come into work while they are sick, and this legislation would help accomplish that.

The bill garnered only Democratic support in its committee hearing and now heads to the House for a full vote.

Before residing in Dover, Delaware, Sarah Petrowich moved around the country with her family, spending eight years in Fairbanks, Alaska, 10 years in Carbondale, Illinois and four years in Indianapolis, Indiana. She graduated from the University of Missouri in 2023 with a dual degree in Journalism and Political Science.