Mathias and Carozza

Former District 38 Sen. Jim Mathias and Sen.-elect Mary Beth Carozza at a candidate forum at the American Legion in Ocean City.

(Dec. 28, 2018) A bill requiring employers to offer paid sick leave to seasonal workers roiled Ocean City businesses in 2018, with ramifications extending into the year’s elections. 

The Maryland Healthy Working Families Act or HB01, which was passed over the veto of Gov. Larry Hogan, gives one hour of leave per 30 hours an employee works and applies to many seasonal employees, much to the concern of tourism operations in Ocean City.

Originally, the measure covered all employees who worked most of the traditional summer season, but then-Senator Jim Mathias succeeded in extending the length of time an employee must work to qualify for the benefit.

But his vote for the amended bill, instead of opposing the overall approach from beginning to end, infuriated local employers, who contended that Mathias, a Democrat, went along with his party’s majority leadership at their expense.

Mathias said he knew the paid sick leave bill would pass no matter how he voted, and that he attempted to work within the party to make the best of a bad situation.

In the meantime, summer business operators complained that the measure would obligate them to shoulder the expense of sick leave, even when it was not warranted. As some business people explained it, a seasonal employee who is approaching the end of his or her summer tenure here, could call in sick during the final days of employment, leave employers short-staffed and still be paid.

While businesses will probably seek some kind of modification of that law when the General Assembly convenes in January, they won’t be doing it through Mathias. Because of his sick leave vote, Ocean City area voters turned against him in such numbers to swing the 38th District senate election to Republican Mary Beth Carozza.

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