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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 by eligible employees for the following reasons:

  • To care for or treat their own or a family member’s mental or physical illness, injury, or condition.
  • To obtain preventive medical care for themselves or a family member.
  • For maternity or paternity leave.
  • For absences due to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

Employers that already provide employees with at least 5 days of paid time off per year (sick leave, vacation, personal days, or other paid time off) will still need to modify their policies to comply with the other elements of the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act.

Penalties for noncompliance may arise if employees file a complaint with the Commissioner of Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulations. The penalties vary based on the wage and severity of the noncompliance, with civil penalties of up to $1,000 per employee, per applicable violation. Employees may also bring an action to seek enforcement of any civil penalty order if the matter has not been resolved at the administrative level.

Employees may bring a civil action in court to enforce the Commissioner’s order within three years after the date of the order. If the employee’s court action is successful, the court is authorized to award three times the value of the unpaid leave, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs.  The court may also order injunctive or other relief as deemed appropriate.

While every employer is different and not every sick leave policy will look the same, revisiting existing policies at this time is prudent given the broad reach of this legislation. During this crucial transition period, it is important that your company’s handbook be reviewed to ensure that it is in compliance with the changing law in Maryland.

The Labor and Employment practice group at Ferguson, Schetelich & Ballew is working with clients to address the changes required by the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act. Feel free to contact Craig F. Ballew, Michael K. Hourigan, or Rafiq R. Gharbi if you would like more information about the new legislation or if you would like us to review your handbook and ensure that your company’s policies will be in compliance come February 11, 2018.

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