New Laws Affecting Maryland Employers
October 7, 2014 | By Darla McClure
There are a number of new laws that went into effect on October 1, 2014. One of which is the Parental Leave Act (“Act”). Employers in Maryland with at least fifteen (15) but no more than forty-nine (49) employees, will be required to provide employees with unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child under the Act. The Act provides eligible employees (those who have been employed for at least 12 months and have worked 1,250 hours prior to the start of the leave) with six (6) weeks of unpaid parental leave during any 12-month period for the birth of the employee’s child or the placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care. If an employer violates the Act, an employee has the right to take private action and allows an employee to seek damages including salary, wages, benefits, and any unpaid compensation, along with reasonable attorney fees. At the conclusion of such leave, the employee must be restored to his or her previous position or to an equivalent position with equivalent benefits, pay, and other terms and conditions of employment. The Act offers similar benefits to those offered under The Family and Medical Leave Act, which is a federal law that applies to employers who have fifty (50) or more employees. Covered employers should review and revise their policies and practices to ensure compliance. This would include developing a written policy to include in the Employee Handbook, as well as forms to document leave requests, train and educate staff who oversees human resource functions, and review and revise existing policies that may conflict with the Act.
Also effective October 1, 2014, is The Fairness for All Marylanders Act which prohibits Maryland employers from discriminating against job applicants or employees on the basis of gender identity. The term “gender identity” is broadly defined as “gender-related identity, appearance, expression, or behavior of a person, regardless of the person’s assigned sex at birth, which may be demonstrated by (1) consistent and uniform assertion of the person’s gender identity; or (2) any other evidence that the gender identity is sincerely held as part of the person’s core identity.” This new law provides that employers may continue to require employees to adhere to “reasonable workplace appearance, grooming, and dress standards that are directly related to the nature of the employment of the employee, and are not precluded by any provision of state or federal law as long as the employer allows the employee to appear, to groom, and to dress consistent with the employee’s gender identity.” All employers should review their current equal opportunity policies to make sure gender identity is named as a protected characteristic.
As of October 1, 2014, employees in Montgomery and Prince George’s County, Maryland must be paid a minimum of $8.40 per hour. The only difference between Montgomery and Prince George’s County is that in Montgomery County, this higher wage applies to employees who perform work in the county, even if the employer is not located there. Prince George’s County currently only applies this new minimum wage to employers who are actually located in that county. The current federal and Maryland minimum wage is $7.25; however the Maryland minimum wage is increasing on January 1, 2015 to $8.00 per hour. In all three jurisdictions, the minimum wage increases each year. The following is a comparison of those increases:
- Montgomery and Princes George’s County increases the minimum hourly wage to: $9.55 on October 1, 2015; $10.75 on October 1, 2016 and $11.50 on October 1, 2017.
- Maryland increases the minimum hourly wage to: $8.00 on January 1, 2015; $8.25 on July 1, 2015; $8.75 on July 1, 2016; $9.25 on July 1, 2017 and $10.10 on July 1, 2018.