A bill likely to come before the New Mexico Legislature next session will be another run at passing a state-run Paid Family and Medical Leave program into law but in 2023, the program will have some concessions to businesses as well as new expansions. Tracy McDaniel, policy advocate for Southwest Women’s Law Center, said a bill is expected to be introduced in the 2023 legislative session. A Paid Family and Medical Leave bill failed in the 2020 and 2021 Legislatures. The 2022 Legislature passed a Senate Memorial to create a task force that would deliver a report on the issue and arrive at some compromises with the business community. A Paid Family and Medical Leave bill would provide up to 12 weeks of paid time off for employees who request it for a serious medical condition, caring for a family member with a serious medical condition or welcoming a new child.
A poll taken this fall shows that New Mexican voters are in favor of a state-supported paid family and medical leave program. A group of Democratic representatives, led by state Rep. Christine Chandler of Los Alamos, have sponsored a bill to establish such a program in the last few legislative sessions but the bills failed to make it through. The bill would have established a fund that both employers and employees pay into that could then be tapped for up to 12 weeks in the event of certain exigencies, such as a new child’s arrival. Related: Paid Family and Medical Leave bill clears House Judiciary Committee
The poll found that 77 percent of New Mexico voters support a state-supported paid family and medical leave insurance program. The number of supporters increased to 81 percent when the voters were told that such a plan would cost workers $2 to $6 per week, according to the poll results.
A bill to create paid family and medical leave for all employees in the state is slated to be filed in January. The bill would allow employees to take up to 12 weeks per year of paid leave for a serious medical issue, bringing home a new child or to care for a family member with a serious medical issue. The effort is not new. State Rep. Christine Chandler, D-Las Alamos, sponsored similar bills in 2019 and 2020 and will be the lead sponsor on the upcoming 2021 bill. HB 16 never went to committee in 2020.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said during an online press conference on Thursday that the state is in “an extreme crisis” for the respiratory illness that has claimed the lives of over 235,000 nationwide and 1,082 in the state. And she said it is already too late to “prevent the pain that is coming to our first responders and our health care workers,” later this month. During Lujan Grisham’s press conference, state Human Services Department Secretary Dr. David Scrase likened the situation to what happened in Italy in March, when the hospital system in that country was so overwhelmed, hospital workers had to limit care. “We’re preparing institutions for an Italy-like situation over the next couple of weeks,” Scrase said. Lujan Grisham did not declare any new public health orders limiting travel or businesses, saying she wanted more time to look at the data.
A bill that would protect pregnant workers passed 6-0 in the Senate Public Affairs Committee in a jovial, bipartisan mood Thursday night. HB 25 amends the state Human Rights Act to protect pregnant workers or new moms from discriminatiom.
Democratic Sen. Liz Stefanics, of Cerillos, and Democratic Rep. Gail Chasey, of Albuquerque, are sponsoring the bill. The accommodations the bill allows for are things such as water at a workstation, extra bathroom breaks and a stool. Also, an employer could not force a pregnant worker to take time off from work due to pregnancy. The bill passed the House floor 65-0 last week.
After a little more than a week in his new job, New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions Secretary-designate Bill McCamley made a major, albeit temporary, rule change for federal employees seeking unemployment benefits because of the ongoing federal government shutdown. McCamley announced Wednesday that he is temporarily waiving a federally mandated work requirement to receive state unemployment benefits. “If you file for unemployment, by federal law, you’re supposed to show that you were looking for two jobs a week, and if you get a job and you turn it down, you lose unemployment,” McCamley told NM Political Report on Wednesday evening. “That’s really crappy for an air traffic controller who’s still working and not getting paid.”
Thousands of New Mexicans are either working without pay or have been furloughed. In a YouTube video, McCamley outlined some specifics of the rule change, which could last for 180 days if necessary.
A worker’s rights coalition and New Mexico’s Department of Workforce Solutions (DWS) settled a year-old lawsuit alleging the state agency failed to adequately investigate or take action on wage theft claims.
The settlement agreement outlines policy and procedural changes the state department will make. Wage theft claims against employers, for example, will now be investigated regardless of the dollar amount involved. The coalition accused DWS of avoiding action on claims worth more than $10,000 and advising employees to instead file a lawsuit against their employer. DWS also agreed to implement a more comprehensive process for workers to file claims against employers who fail to pay minimum wages, especially workers whose first language is not English. Jose “Pancho” Olivas, a named plaintiff in the case, said in a statement, that he and others in his community depend ton DWS to keep employers accountable for fair working conditions.
A judge temporarily halted a New Mexico state agency’s self-imposed limitations on wage theft claims.
In a ruling Tuesday afternoon, Santa Fe District Judge David Thomson ordered that, for now, the state Department of Workforce Solutions (DWS) cannot automatically deny complaints of wage theft that total more than $10,000. The state department is also not allowed to automatically turn down claims that happened more than a year before they’re made. “Wage theft” refers to an employer denying payments owed to an employee in any way, which can include paying below minimum wage and refusing to pay overtime, for example. Thomson’s temporary restraining order against the state comes because of a class-action lawsuit filed just two weeks ago by “low income workers” who made wage theft claims against their employers to DWS. Ten individuals named in the lawsuit allege that DWS’ handling of their wage theft claims violate multiple state laws.