In October, 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 2017.
The MLAW Board of Directors reviewed the results of the balloting and identified issues that will comprise the MLAW Legislative Agenda 2017. The eight bills selected are listed below.
Rape Survivor Family Protection Act
Five percent (5%) of rape victims of reproductive age (age 12-45) became pregnant as a result of rape, with the majority of pregnancies in adolescents. The Rape Survivor Family Protection Act 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.
Rape and Physical Resistance
This bill clarifies and modernizes Maryland’s sex crimes statutes by making it clear that rape victims are not required to physically resist sexual assault.
Maryland Tort Claims Act – Claim Requirement (Sexual Assault in the Workplace)
Current law bars a state employee from making a valid claim of sexual assault if notice is not filed within one year. In a case of sexual assault in the workplace, a victim might be traumatized and not be able to come forward in a year. Not filing notice should never prevent a claim from moving forward. This bill provides that a victim of sexual assault, in state government employment, may not be denied access to justice if she/he fails to file a claim within one year. This legislation would correct a tension in the existing law between two provisions that require a claimant to show good cause and the defendant to show actual prejudice.
Women on Board” Bill-Corporate Board Gender Diversity Requirements
This bill will encourage companies to abide by board appointment practices, which aim to maintain a diverse composition. Instead of attempting to compel all companies to maintain mandatory quotas, the scope of this bill extends only to those companies seeking work-contracts with the state. Presumably, the size of a company and the value of the proposed work contract would be taken into consideration when determining the quotas to which any particular company is subject and whether or not they would be subject to this stature at all. Leading authorities on pay equity believe the next important step involves placing more women on corporate boards can influence compensation policies and practices.
Equal Pay Salary History and Salary Range
The intent of this bill is to introduce legislation that prohibits discriminatory practices and increases transparency from employers when hiring women. Employers may not ask past salary history and Employers over a certain size (TBD) must disclose a salary range for the position when requested by applicant.
Maryland Healthy Working Families Act
Everyone gets sick and everyone deserves time to recover without risking their economic stability, yet 41% of American workers are unable to earn paid sick days. Here in Maryland, more than 700,000 of our neighbors are forced to make impossible choices: go to work sick, send an ill child to school or daycare, or stay home and sacrifice much-needed income or, worse, risk job loss. Among low-wage workers, the people who can least afford to take unpaid time off from work when sick, 80% lack access to paid sick days. 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.
Fair Scheduling Act
Unpredictable and unstable work schedules are wreaking havoc on the lives of women and families in Maryland. Women make up 70% of the low-wage workforce in Maryland where these practices are most common. Many of these women are mothers. But when a parent has little notice of whether she will work 10 or 30 hours in a week, or when, it is impossible to budget for basic expenses like food and rent, secure reliable child care, or hold down a second job to make ends meet. The Fair Scheduling Act will provide baseline protections, like advance notice of work schedules, predictability pay for last minute schedule changes, and compensation for on-call shifts, to incentivize employers to create stable, predictable schedules and to ensure that employees are compensated for their time and flexibility.
Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnant Workers
Maryland’s Reasonable Accommodations for Disabilities Due to Pregnancy Act has helped many pregnant workers get reasonable accommodations that allow them to continue working during their pregnancies. However, more women would be able to work safely and support their families during their pregnancies and after giving birth if the law were clarified and strengthened in several key ways. This bill will make clarifications to Maryland’s existing law to ensure that pregnant workers with a medical need for workplace accommodations due to normal pregnancy are in fact provided reasonable accommodations. It will also strengthen the law by clarifying that reasonable accommodations must also be provided for lactation-related needs. And it will strengthen the law to prohibit employers from forcing pregnant workers out on leave when they could be reasonably accommodated since many women cannot afford or do not want to take leave and could continue working if they were provided another reasonable accommodation.