On May 15, 2018, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed into law the “Disclosing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Act of 2018” (“Act”). The Act, which can be found here, goes into effect on October 1, 2018, and sunsets without any further action on June 30, 2023.
The Act, which is codified at Md. Code Ann., Labor & Employment § 3-715, adds two requirements to current Maryland labor and employment law. First, the Act declares that any provision in an employment contract or policy that waives any right or remedy to a future claim of sexual harassment or retaliation for reporting sexual harassment is void as against public policy. The Act also includes a separate subsection prohibiting retaliation based upon an employee’s failure to enter into such a prohibited contract. An employee is entitled to his or her attorneys’ fees and costs when defending against an employer’s attempts to enforce a prohibited contract or policy. These provisions apply to all employers.
The second addition concerns reporting of sexual harassment claims, and applies to employers with over fifty employees. On or before July 1, 2020, and again on or before July 1, 2022, covered employers must submit to the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights the following information: (a) number of settlements made after an allegation of sexual harassment; (b) number of times the employer paid to settle a sexual harassment claim against the same employee over a ten year period; and (c) the number of sexual harassment settlements containing a confidentiality provision. The Commission will post on its website the aggregate number of settlements reported by employers, and individual survey reports will be made available by the Commission upon request.
The law is limited in scope because it only prohibits contracts that require waivers of future claims. Such contracts are generally not enforceable even without legislation, so this is not a dramatic change in the legal landscape.