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  • September 3, 2019

New Maryland Employment Law Will Expand Employer Liablity for Workplace Harrassment.

Maryland’s new employee harassment law (HB 679) is set to become effective October 1, 2019.  The law dramatically expands the scope of actions that can be brought against employers, and (perhaps most importantly) is much broader than protections now available under Federal law. The new Maryland law covers harassment against workers based on race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.  It does not have a specific definition of “harassment,” but rather maintains the “judicially determined meaning” – which involves unwelcome behavior, comments, or actions that create a hostile or offensive working…

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  • October 8, 2018

General Contractor Liability for Unpaid Wages

The Maryland General Assembly has passed a new statute that marks a dramatic departure from existing wage and hour requirements for general contractors.  The new statute, which took effect on October 1, 2018, makes general contractors responsible for the failure of their subcontractors to pay their employees the wages they are owed.  The statute is modeled after a recent District of Columbia law, and will significantly alter the long established rules among general contractors, subcontractors, and their employees. The Maryland wage and hour and wage payment laws are designed to ensure that employees are fully and timely paid.  The laws…

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  • April 30, 2018

Workplace Religious Accommodations and Islamic Prayer

Few issues are more sensitive for employers than accommodating employees’ religious practices and observances. In recent years, Muslim employees and their employers have struggled with how to handle the religious requirement to perform obligatory prayers while at work. Muslims are required by their faith to observe five daily prayers during certain intervals. The performance of the prayer requires preparation in the form of a ritual cleansing, followed by the actual prayer which consists of a series of standing, bowing, and prostrating actions accompanied by recitation of chapters from the Quran. The five daily prayers occur at dawn, mid-day, mid-afternoon, sunset,…

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  • January 31, 2018

Paid Leave Is Now Maryland Law

Earlier this month, the Maryland Senate voted to override Governor Hogan’s veto of the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act. As a result, that legislation is poised to take effect on February 11, 2018. The Act’s most notable provision requires that employers with 15 or more employees provide full time employees at least 5 days of paid leave per year. For employers with fewer than 15 employees, the leave can be unpaid.  Employees who regularly work 12 hours or more per week are also to receive 1 hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Paid leave may be used…

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  • November 28, 2017

Avoiding Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Recent news stories have shed a brighter light on the very real problem of sexual harassment in the workplace.  Failing to properly address sexual harassment creates an unsafe workplace and exposes the employer to substantial liability. There is nothing new about this issue. Liability under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act has existed for more than thirty years.  These recent headlines simply speak to the unfortunate reality that too many workplaces fail to properly address the problem.  It is imperative that employers acquire the tools needed to protect their employees and themselves.      Sexual harassment encompasses a wide…

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  • August 24, 2017

REVISITING WHEN AN EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK IS A CONTRACT UNDER MARYLAND LAW

Is your employee handbook a contract? Thirty years ago, Maryland’s courts ruled that a jury had to decide that question, unless the handbook contained a “clear and conspicuous” disclaimer stating that it was not a contract.  Since then, most Maryland employers have wisely introduced disclaimer language to avoid litigation seeking damages because something in the handbook was not followed exactly as written.  A recent Maryland case revisits this question and identifies a new problem created, in part, by our societal move into the digital age. James Tucker was an employee of the Johns Hopkins University (“the University”). He was notified…

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  • May 15, 2017

Maryland Wiretapping Law vs. Workers’ Rights Under the NLRA

With the omnipresent smartphone making its way into the workplace, employers have tried to address some of the concerns that come along with such devices. Secretly recording the conversations of others with a cell phone can be very easy given today’s discrete technology. Predictably, many employers would (and do) take issue with such activity.  Moreover, such activity is illegal under Maryland law.  On the other hand, one federal agency—the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or “the Board”)—asserts that employees should have the right to secretly record others as an exercise of their rights in the workplace.  This divergence between federal…

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  • November 30, 2016

Employee Benefit Plans and the Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program

The Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program (“VFCP”), sponsored by the Employee Benefits Security Administration of the Department of Labor, provides relief from civil liability and an exemption from excise taxes under the Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”). VFCP is designed to encourage self-correction of certain violations and fiduciary breaches of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. VFCP covers many different transactions. One of the most commonly violated transactions that it covers is delinquent contributions. Plan sponsors have a fiduciary responsibility to ensure that participant contributions are deposited in a plan’s trust on a timely basis. Participant contributions are defined as…

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  • January 27, 2016

Robert L. Ferguson, Jr. and Ann D. Ware Win Another Coverage Case in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

  Robert L. Ferguson, Jr. and Ann D. Ware won another appeal argued before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.  This is their second successful 4th Circuit appeal in the span of a few months.  In this most recent matter, Mr. Ferguson argued that a Crew Provision in a marine insurance policy was unambiguous and that a reasonably prudent layperson construing the policy would conclude that there was no coverage for the Appellant.   In an unpublished opinion, the Fourth Circuit agreed with Mr. Ferguson and affirmed the United States District Court for the District of Maryland’s…

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  • February 16, 2015

Maryland and DC Employers Required to “Think Outside the Box” or Rather Ban it Altogether

Many people like to use the cliché “think outside the box.”  In most instances the phrase is used to encourage someone to be creative and look for ideas outside of what is common or the norm.  New laws in three localities in Maryland and in the District of Columbia are not simply encouraging employers to think outside the box, but requiring them to “Ban the Box” entirely.  The penalties for failure to do so are significant. These laws have been termed “Ban the Box” legislation because, in addition to other provisions, the new laws ban employers from having a box…

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