The Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act (FEPA) is the state analog to federal anti-discrimination laws. The law prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, and disability. If an employer is found to have engaged in an unlawful employment practice under FEPA the remedies can include compensatory damages, back pay, injunctive relief, and punitive damages. Compensatory damages are, as the name suggests, intended to compensate employees for future loss, emotional damages, mental anguish, and the like.
The Maryland General Assembly is considering increasing the limitations on compensatory damages for state law discrimination claims. Senate Bill 449 would increase the amount of compensatory damages available under FEPA as follows:
- Employers with 15-100 employees, increase to $65,000 (from $50,000);
- Employers with 101 to 200 employees, increase to $130,000 (from $100,000);
- Employers with 201 to 500 employees, increase to $260,000 (from $200,000); and
- Employers with more than 500 employees, increase to $385,000 (from $300,000).
If enacted, the change will take effect October 1, 2022. The compensatory damages limits would also increase by 5% annually beginning October 1, 2022. The prior caps aligned with those under Title VII (the federal law barring discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, and religion).
In addition, SB 449 would amend FEPA to allow for back pay to be awarded for up to three years preceding the filing of a complaint where the underlying conduct is similar or related to other discriminatory actions that occurred outside the time for filing a complaint.