As of October 1, 2019, there are a series of new laws and/or amendments to existing laws that impact Maryland’s workplaces and employers. These include:
- Significant FEPA Amendments: Maryland’s anti-discrimination law, the Fair Employment Practices Act (FEPA), now includes independent contractors within the definition of employee entitled to FEPA’s protections. Further, while FEPA generally applies to Maryland employers who have at least fifteen (15) employees, for purposes of harassment claims only, FEPA will apply to employers with at least one (1) employee. FEPA adds “harassment” to the list of activities that FEPA prohibits and specifics it to include “harassment based on race, color, religion, ancestry or national origin, sex, age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.” The amendments expand the definition of a “supervisor” to include the acts of an individual who directs, supervises, or evaluates the work activities of an employee; increase the time for filing a harassment complaint with the MCCR or local government agency from six months to two years after the date on which the alleged harassment occurred; and extend the time for filing a lawsuit alleging harassment from two to three years after the alleged harassment occurred. Lastly, state employees (but not private sector employees) have mandatory training requirements.
- Organ Donation Leave: Employers with at least 15 employees working in Maryland must provide eligible employees with sixty (60) business days of unpaid leave to serve as an organ donor, and thirty (30) business days of unpaid leave to serve as a bone marrow donor, in any 12-month period. The law borrows the FMLA’s definition of eligible employee, requiring an employee to have worked for at least 12 months and at least 1250 hours in the preceding 12 months. Employees must provide a written physician verification confirming the employee is an organ or bone marrow donor and there is medical necessity for the donation. Most notably, organ donation leave may not be taken concurrently with FMLA leave. Organ donation leave affords the employee job restoration rights, maintenance of health insurance, and not considering the leave as a break in service for purposes of seniority, leave entitlement, or salary adjustment. Regulations are forthcoming from the Commissioner of Labor and Industry.
- No Non-Competes For Low-Wage Earners: Maryland has made it unlawful for employers to require certain employees to enter into non-competition agreements. This prohibition applies to any employee who earns equal to or less than $15 per hour or $31,200 annually. The law does not state explicitly if it also intends to prohibit restrictions that do not prevent actual competition, such as customer or employee non-solicitation clauses. Importantly, the law does not prevent an employer from prohibiting otherwise covered employees from taking or using client lists or other proprietary client-related information.
Each of these new laws very likely requires changes to your existing policies, practices, and/or procedures. Please be sure to implement those required changes, in consult with counsel, to ensure compliance.