Vermont Senate passes paid sick leave bill, votes down small business exemption

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Vermont Senate passes paid sick leave bill, votes down small business exemption

Wed, 02/10/2016 - 3:44pm -- katie

Vermont Business Magazine Today the Vermont Senate passed the Paid Sick Days Bill (H. 187) giving all Vermonters access to three paid sick days after they have worked a year. The bill excluded an amendment which would have exempted small businesses with five or fewer employees from the Paid Sick Days bill. Sen. Campion’s amendment was shelved by an amendment from Sen. Campbell, which calls for a survey of Vermont small businesses. The survey has a deadline for completion of January 15, 2017. The Senate narowly voted to substitute the Campion amendment with the Campbell amendment 15-14.

Below are reactions from Lt. Governor Phil Scott, Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas, House tMajority Leader and Paid Sick Days Coalition.

Lt. Governor Phil Scott 

Lt. Governor Phil Scott today issued the following statement on the Senate’s passage of H.187 without an amendment which would have exempted small business with five or fewer employees from the paid sick leave legislation:

“Today’s vote to not exempt Vermont’s very smallest businesses from yet another mandate is a sign that the Legislature does not understand how difficult it is to do business in our State. As someone who has been both an employee and an employer, I understand the importance of treating employees well and making a payroll. It was my hope the Senate would have adopted this exemption, thereby avoiding an additional mandate and burden on Vermont’s smallest businesses while also expanding sick leave to many Vermonters who don't have it today. I have confidence that Vermont’s business community wants to do the best thing for their employees, but in order for them to accomplish that, we need to give them the flexibility and room to grow.

“It is essential we focus and work on ways to grow our economy, be better partners with our business community and make Vermont more affordable for all. These are issues which impact every single Vermonter, and should be a priority if we want to build a brighter future for Vermont.”

Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas, House Majority Leader

Today the Vermont Senate passed an earned sick days bill which builds on the House's proposal (H.187) to give all Vermonters access to three paid sick days after they've worked for a year.  While House Democrats applaud the Senate for moving the bill forward, there are some differences between the House and Senate versions. 

"I look forward to working with the Senate to pass a modest, universal and incremental sick leave benefit that gives all Vermont workers a few days to be out of work if they’re ill," said Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas, House Majority Leader.  "As a small business owner, I believe when Vermont workers are sick, they shouldn't have to choose between taking care of themselves or their loved ones and a day's pay."

Chair of House Generation Operations Committee, Rep. Helen Head says her committee will make earned sick days a priority and will act quickly. "When all workers have access to paid sick days it levels the playing field, increases workers productivity, and increases retention. My committee has spent a lot of time to ensure we balance the needs and challenges for all people and will act quickly to review the Senate changes."

All employers who already offer an equal or more generous paid time, combined time, paid sick time, or any type of paid leave would be unaffected.

Paid Sick Days Coalition
Workers won today when an amendment meant to weaken the Paid Sick Days bill was not successful in the Vermont Senate. Using a variety of procedural motions, the Senate voted for the third time on the Paid Sick Days bill, passing it once again with a voice vote.
Annie Accettella, campaign director at Voices for Vermont's children celebrated the Senate passage of the bill, "On behalf of the Paid Sick Days Campaign, we would like to thank all of our supporters in the Senate, the Senate leadership and particularly Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell for their outstanding support of working families throughout the legislative process."
The vote was originally scheduled because Senator Bill Doyle (R-Washington) asked to reconsider his original "no" vote on the "Campion Amendment," which would have exempted businesses with fewer than 5 employees from providing a mandatory minimum standard of paid sick days. When the amendment came up for action, Senator John Campbell (D-Windsor) offered a substitute amendment that calls for a survey of small businesses to determine the impact of the paid sick days requirement on these businesses. That substitute passed with a vote of 15-14, thus replacing the original Campion amendment. 
The Senate then handily passed the bill one final time.
"We were so concerned that the Campion amendment would have created massive confusion for small business owners, workers and the Department of Labor. We very much appreciate Senator Campbell offering a substitute that allows all workers to get the rights they deserve and makes sure small businesses have clarity about what the law actually means for them," explained Jaquelyn Rieke, owner of Nutty Steph's and member of Main Street Alliance of Vermont's Earned Leave Coalition.
The bill will now go back to the House for further action. The House can decide to agree with the Senate, amend the bill further, or go to conference committee.
"Tens of thousands of working Vermonters who have long lacked such basic protections as paid sick days eagerly await the bill being signed by Governor Shumlin to move us another step forward toward a society that protects health and human rights for all," noted Isaac Grimm, lead organizer at Rights and Democracy.

More information on the bill and the issue can be found on the Vermont Paid Sick Days Coalition website, here: 


Click here to read related story:

Senate to reconsider paid sick leave bill

Vermont Business Magazine In an unusual move Thursday, the Vermont Senate has decided to revisit H187, the paid sick leave bill, despite overwhelming passage of the legislation Wednesday. The sticking point is a floor amendment before Wednesday's final vote that exempted businesses with five or fewer employees until 2018 (the "Campion amendment"). That provision would thus exclude initially many of the workers the bill is intended to help, but it would help soften the financial blow to these very small businesses.