After many years of trying to get legislation for paid sick leave off the ground, the Maryland General Assembly finally enacted the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act on January 12, 2018, overriding Governor Hogan’s veto.
Generally, under the law, employers with 15 or more employees must provide an employee with one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked. For employers with fewer than 15 employees, the employer must provide at least one hour of unpaid leave for every 30 hours worked.
Leave can be taken for multiple reasons, and not just when the employee is sick. It can be used for treating an illness, preventative care, maternity or paternity leave, and for specified instances relating to domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. An employee is also entitled to take leave to care for a family member.
The law delineates which employees are covered and how leave accrues and may be used. For example, an employee isn’t entitled to accrue more than 40 hours of leave in a year; to carry over more than 40 hours of leave per year; to have more than 64 hours of leave accrued at any one time; or to use more than 64 hours of leave in a single year.
The Act also contains various provisions relating to implementing a leave policy, including notification and verification requirements, when leave may be denied, and compensation for terminated employees.
To ensure that employers are complying with the law, the Act creates a framework for investigations and imposes monetary penalties for violations. The Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Licensing is imparted with the authority to investigate allegations of violations and may inspect employee records and issue orders.
If the Commissioner finds that a violation has occurred, the employer will have to pay the full monetary value of the unpaid earned leave and any actual damages the employee sustained as a result of the violation. An employer may also be ordered to pay up to three times the employee’s hourly wage and a penalty of up to $1,000 for each employee for whom the employer is not in compliance.
If the employer fails to comply with the Commissioner’s order, then it can be sued by the employee or Attorney General to enforce the order. A court may then award any relief deemed appropriate, including punitive damages.
Employees may also be penalized for abusing the law. If an employee makes a complaint or testifies at a hearing in bad faith, the employee may be guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to a $1,000 fine.
The law goes into effect on February 11, 2018. Before then, all employers should determine whether their leave policy meets the requirements of the new law. A word of caution – the Department of Labor and Licensing may also implement regulations, so the full scope of the law is not yet settled.
To help ensure that your policy complies with the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act, contact Elizabeth Harlan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 410-783-3528.