Maryland Jumps on Bandwagon—Adopts Paid Sick and Safe Leave Law

Mark Blondman

Joining Arizona, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, the Maryland Legislature enacted legislation requiring employers in Maryland to provide paid sick and safe leave to employees by overriding Governor Hogan’s veto of the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act (“MD HWFA”). Unless the date for implementation is delayed by the Legislature, the requirements of the Act go into effect on February 12, 2018.

Under the MD HWFA, all employers are required to provide sick and safe leave to eligible employees (defined as any employee who is over 18 years of age and regularly working at least 12 hours per week). Maryland employers who employ 15 or more employees, whether they be full-time, part-time, temporary, or seasonal, will be required to provide paid sick and safe leave in an amount up to five days (or 40 hours) in a year. The law requires that employees accrue sick and safe leave at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked up to the maximum of 40 accrued paid leave hours. Alternatively, an employer is permitted to award the entire 40 hours at the beginning of the year. Any accrued sick or safe leave must be paid at the employee’s regular rate of pay and may be used for the employee’s own physical or mental illness, to care for a family member with physical or mental illness, for maternity or paternity leave, and in the event of domestic violence or sexual assault against the employee or a member of the employee’s family. The Act also permits employees to carry up to 40 hours of unused paid leave from year to year.

Employers who employ less than 15 employees are required under the Act to provide unpaid sick or safe leave that also accrues at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked. While employees of smaller employers do not earn paid leave time, their right to use the accrued leave is protected under the Act; and they may not be penalized for exercising their sick or safe leave rights.

The legislation also contains permissible restrictions on accruals as well as on the use of leave once it has accrued. The Maryland Commissioner of Labor and Industry has been directed to create a model notice of rights and responsibilities under the MD HWFA, which employers will be obligated to post in their workplaces. In addition, employers must regularly update employees regarding their sick and safe leave balance.

As noted above, the MD HWFA becomes effective in less than 30 days. As a result, employers should review their existing sick leave, as well as paid time off, policies to ensure compliance with this new law.

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