In November, leaders of state-wide organizations and advocates addressing issues of concern to women of Maryland participated in a conference to identify potential legislative initiatives for the 2016 Maryland General Assembly. Those initiatives then constituted a ballot which members of MLAW considered. Members were asked to identify what they believed were the top initiatives for the MLAW Legislative Agenda 2016.
The MLAW Board of Directors reviewed the results of the balloting and identified issues that will comprise the MLAW Legislative Agenda 2016. The issues selected are listed below and described in more detail below.
*Equal Pay for Equal Work
*Fair Scheduling Act of 2016
*Maryland Healthy Working Families Act
*Stalking, Harassment, Misuse of Electronic Communication or Interactive Computer Service
*Rape Survivor Family Protection Act
*Expansion of Maryland Vacating Convictions Law for Survivors of Human Trafficking
*Family and Medical Leave Act Insurance Program
Equal Pay for Equal Work: This bill would close various loopholes to address the fact that women in Maryland earn, on average just 85 cents for every dollar earned by men in comparable jobs, including the closing of the ‘Employer Defense’ loophole, and also prohibiting retaliation against sharing salary information.
Fair Scheduling Act of 2016: This bill will reform Maryland law to guarantee predictable schedules so workers can plan ahead to meet their responsibilities on and off the job; it also allows employees to be compensated for their time and flexibility. This critical legislation will incentivize employers to build stable, predictable, family-friendly schedules and prevents employers from destabilizing the lives of the lowest paid and most vulnerable workers and their families – more often than not, women.
Maryland Healthy Working Families Act: The proposed legislation, which was introduced for the first time in 2013, requires Maryland employers to allow workers to earn a certain number of annual paid sick and safe days. Employees would begin accruing hours from the start of employment but would not be allowed to use their paid sick time until the completion of a probationary period. The “safe time” component of the legislation requires employers to allow employees who have been victims of domestic abuse or sexual assault to use their accrued paid sick leave to care for their health after these incidents or to seek legal protections or new housing.
Stalking, Harassment, Misuse of Electronic Communication or Interactive Computer Service, Revenge Porn: Stalking can be a very scary form of intimate partner abuse. Prosecutors indicate the way stalking is defined makes it virtually impossible to obtain convictions. Updating and revising the laws of stalking, harassment and misuse of electronic communication will assist in holding perpetrators of these acts accountable criminally and increase safety for victims of domestic violence.
Rape Survivor Family Protection Act: 5% of rape victims of reproductive age (age 12-45) became pregnant as a result of rape, with the majority of pregnancies in adolescents. This bill would create a legal process for rape victims to terminate the parental rights of rapists when a child is conceived as result of rape. Victims would be required to meet a clear and convincing standard of evidence. This is the same standard used for other termination of parental rights cases – no more, no less.
Expansion of Maryland Vacating Convictions Law for Survivors of Human Trafficking: This bill expands the relief available to survivors of human trafficking who have been arrested and convicted for crimes they were forced to commit by their traffickers. In addition to expanding the types of crimes eligible for vacatur, the bill also explicitly extends the relief to survivors of labor trafficking, who were previously ineligible for this form of relief. This change will allow all survivors of trafficking to more easily heal from the trauma of their victimization by reducing the stigma and collateral consequences associated with having a criminal record that stems from a history of trafficking.
Family and Medical Leave Act Insurance Program: The proposed legislation establishes a paid family and medical leave insurance program, which would operate, similar to unemployment insurance and social security. This program would create a state-run insurance fund that provides up to 12 weeks of partial wage replacement for those that are caring for a new child, have a serious health condition, or are caring for a family member with a serious health condition. Rhode Island, New Jersey, and California already.