On January 12, 2018, Maryland’s General Assembly overrode Governor Larry Hogan’s May 2017 veto of the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act (“the Act”). The new law is among the most expansive employment laws in the state’s history and requires every Maryland employer – regardless of size – to provide “Sick and Safe Leave” to covered employees. The new law is set to take effect on February 11, 2018.
With limited exceptions, the law covers every Maryland employee over the age of eighteen who regularly works 12 or more hours per week. The new law entitles covered employees to accrue Sick and Safe Leave at a rate of not less than 1 hour of leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 40 hours of leave per year. Employees may carry over earned and unused leave year-to-year, but employers can cap the Sick and Safe Leave accrual at 64 hours of leave. Employers with fifteen or more employees must provide paid Sick and Safe Leave, while employers with fewer than fifteen employees may designate Sick and Safe Leave as unpaid leave.
The law allows employees to use Sick and Safe Leave for any physical or mental illness, injury, or condition, to obtain preventative medical care, for maternity and paternity leave, and for reasons related to domestic violence or sexual assault. Employees may use Sick and Safe Leave for their own conditions, as well as to care for a broad range of family members, including spouses, parents, children, siblings, grandparents, and grandchildren. Employers are prohibited from counting Sick and Safe Leave absences against employees, and from retaliating against employees for exercising their rights under the Act.
The Act allows employers that have leave policies in place that are more generous than the Act’s minimum requirements to maintain their existing leave policies, but imposes substantial new notice and record-keeping requirements on all employers. For example, the Act has specific requirements regarding a new notice of employee rights and requires employers to provide information on employees’ Sick and Safe Leave accrual and availability along with each wage statement. The Act also requires employers to maintain records for at least three years about the Sick and Safe Leave earned and used by each employee.
Maryland employers would be well-advised to consult with their employment counsel to evaluate their leave policies, ensure compliance with the Act’s requirements, and update their handbooks and record-keeping practices in light of the new law.