News

Back

State of Maryland Passes New Sick and Safe Leave Law - Effective February 11, 2018

The State of Maryland has enacted a new law, the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act (the “Act”), which will require most employers within the state to provide eligible employees with sick and safe leave. The law, which goes into effect on February 11, 2018, will affect employers and employees throughout the State. 

Under the Act, employers with 15 or more employees will be required to allow their employees to earn up to 40 hours of sick and safe leave each year. Employees that employ fewer than 15 employees will be required to provide at least 40 hours of unpaid sick and safe leave each year.    

The Act provides that employees are to accrue sick and safe leave at a rate of at least 1 hour for every 30 hours that they work. Alternatively, employers may elect to award employees the full amount of the sick and safe leave that they would earn over the course of the year at the beginning of the year instead of using the accrual method. If an employer uses the accrual method, its employees must be permitted to carry-over up to 40 hours of leave to the next year. However, employers are permitted to put a cap of 64 hours on the amount of sick and safe leave that an employee can accrue at any time and use in a year.

The new law requires employers to permit employees to use the accrued sick and safe leave for the following reasons:

  • To care for or treat the employee’s mental or physical illness, injury, or condition;
  • To obtain preventative medical care for the employee or employee’s family member;
  • To care for a family member with a mental or physical illness, injury, or condition;
  • For maternity or paternity leave; or
    • If: 
      • The absence from work is necessary due to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking committed against the employee or the employee’s family member; and
      • The leave is being used:
        • By the employee to obtain for the employee or the employee’s family member:
          • medical or mental health attention that is related to the domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking; 
          • services from a victim services organization related to the domestic violations, sexual assault, or stalking; or
          • legal services or proceedings related to or resulting form the domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking;
        • During the time that the employee has temporarily relocated due to the domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

While the Act will apply to most employers and employees within Maryland, there are certain exemptions under the Act. For example, employees who are under the age of 18 and those who regularly work less than 12 hours a week are not entitled to leave under the Act. In addition, the Act does not apply to: independent contractors; individuals who work in certain agricultural positions; and any individual who is employed in the construction industry and is also covered by a bona fide collective bargaining agreement in which the requirements of the Act are waived.

Employers are not required under the Act to pay employees the monetary value of unused leave upon the termination of employment. However, if an employer does not pay-out the unused sick and safe leave at the time of termination the employer must reinstate the unused sick and safe leave that an employee had when they left their employment if the employee is reinstated within 37 weeks of leaving their employment. 

In addition, there are specific notice requirements under the Act. First, the Act provides that employers must provide employees a written statement of the amount of sick and safe leave that is available for their each time wages are paid. Further, employers must provide all employees with a general notice of their rights under the Act. In addition to these notice requirements, employers are required to keep a record of sick and safe leave used by each employee and sick and safe leave used by each employee. Those records must be kept for at least 3 years.  

Employees will be able to enforce their rights under the Act by filing complaints with the Commissioner of Labor and Industry. The penalties for non-compliance are significant. If found in violation, the Commissioner of Labor and Industry may order the employer to pay the employee or employees affected the full monetary value of any unpaid sick and safe leave and any economic damages, direct the employer to pay any additional amount up to three times the value of the employee’s hourly wage for each violation, and assess against the employer a civil penalty of up to $1,000 for each employee for whom the employer is not in compliance with the Act. If an employer fails to comply with an order of the Commissioner, the State of Maryland may file a civil action to enforce the order or the aggrieved employee may file a civil action to enforce the order. If the employee is successful in such an action, a Court may award the employee three times the value of their unpaid sick and safe leave, punitive damages, attorneys’ fees, and injunctive relief.  

The Act specifically preempts the authority of any local jurisdiction to enact any law on or after January 1, 2017 that regulates sick and safe leave.  The Montgomery County Earned Sick and Safe Leave Law was enacted prior to January 1, 2017; therefore, that law was not preempted by the Act and it remains in effect.  Nonetheless, employers in Montgomery County will need to ensure that their policies comply with both the Montgomery County law and the Act.

It is important that all employers in Maryland immediately review their leave policies and update them as necessary to ensure compliance with the Act. Should you have any questions regarding the requirements of the Act, and its applicability, please contact one of McNamee Hosea’s employment law attorneys.