Maryland General Assembly Approves Organ Donation Leave Legislation

Bernadette Hunton
Bernadette Hunton

The Maryland General Assembly has approved legislation (HB1284/SB0705) that entitles eligible employees to unpaid job-protected leave for organ and bone marrow donation.  While expected to be approved, this legislation is not yet finalized and has not officially passed into law.

Under the new legislation, Maryland employers with at least 15 employees would be required to provide eligible employees up to 60 business days in any 12-month period to serve as an organ donor, and up to 30 business days in any 12-month period to serve as a bone marrow donor.

To be eligible for leave, employees must have worked for their employer for at least 12 months and must have worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months preceding the requested start date for leave.  Medical certification is required to show that the employee is a donor and that there is a medical necessity for the donation.

Importantly, organ donation leave may not be taken concurrently with any leave taken under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).  Like employees who take FMLA leave, however, an employee is entitled to be restored to his or her previous position, or a position with equivalent pay and benefits, upon conclusion of the leave.  Employees are also entitled to continued coverage under any group health plan while on leave.

The legislation prohibits retaliation against any employee for exercising rights related to taking organ donation leave.  If it’s determined by the Commissioner of Labor and Industry that a violation has occurred, the Commissioner may attempt to resolve the matter informally through mediation, or ask the attorney general to pursue an action on behalf of the employee.  There is no private cause of action.

The legislation also amends the Insurance Article of the Maryland Code to prohibit insurers (life, disability and long-term care) from taking certain actions to cancel or refuse to issue insurance, refuse to pay a claim, or increasing insurance costs, including premiums, based solely on an individual’s status as an organ donor.

If the bill becomes law, the employment law and insurance provisions take effect October 1, 2019, and January 1, 2020, respectively.

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