February 25, 2021

Paid sick leave bill heads to House floor next


After another lengthy and contentious debate around, the Healthy Workplaces, HB 20, bill passed the House Judiciary Committee along party lines.

With a vote of 7 to 4, the Healthy Workplaces bill will now move to the House . All of the Republicans in the committee opposed the bill and provided lengthy debate around it. 

Members of the business community also spoke in opposition to the bill during public comment while workers stood in support, telling stories of going in to work with COVID-19 during the pandemic due to a lack of sick leave policy provided by their employers.

Rep. Eliseo Lee Alcon, D-Milan, said he heard repeatedly that businesses weren’t able to participate in the crafting of the bill but said many businesses don’t provide sick leave so “it’s up to us legislators…to take care of people who work for business.”

“We should have had a sick leave policy 15 years ago,” Alcon said.

Rep. Greg Nibert, R-Roswell, said that a person his wife hires to pet sit the family dog on occasion will, because of the bill’s language, be able to accrue sick leave and call in sick.

“I have to keep track of their sick leave, if they’re there for whatever reason they can call me while I’m on vacation and not watch the dog for a day,” Nibert said. “There’s a problem here and it’s the breadth of the bill.”

Nibert said the bill needs to better define contract worker but Rep. Christine Chandler, D- Los Alamos, who is the lead sponsor on the bill, said contract worker is already understood in common law and Nibert’s pet sitter would constitute a contract worker.

Contract workers are not eligible for paid sick leave by an employer, she said.

Nibert said that an unintended consequence of the bill could be that employers will redefine their workers as contract employees to avoid having to pay for 64 hours, or 8 days a year, of accrued time off.

Rep. James Townsend, R-Artesia, asked about large corporations, such as Exxon and others, which “have wonderful benefits including paid time off.” Townsend asked if Chandler had considered exempting such large companies from the bill.

Chandler said that large corporations “have the capacity to accommodate this bill.”

“The foundation of this bill and the philosophical foundation is that employees should have dedicated sick leave,” Chandler said.

The bill was amended to remove public employees from the measure and it changed the complaint and enforcement provision to “adopt what is in the minimum wage law we passed a couple of years ago,” Chandler said.