2021 – New Maryland Employment Law Round-Up

Bernadette Hunton
Bernadette Hunton

The State of Maryland has passed several new employment laws, with some set to take effect as soon as July 1, 2021.  Here is a rundown:

SB364- Nondisparagement Clauses in Law Enforcement Civil Claims Settlements. Prohibits non-disparagement clauses in settlement agreements for claims alleging misconduct in the performance of duties by members of the police forces for certain higher education institutions in the State of Maryland. Claims must arise in Baltimore City.  Effective October 1, 2021.

HB289- Workplace Violence Peace Orders. Permits peace orders by or on behalf of employees, volunteers, or independent contractors, for certain acts occurring at the workplace within 30 days before a petition is filed. Effective October 1, 2021, certain sections delayed implementation until October 1, 2023.

HB581- Maryland Essential Workers’ Protection Act.  The Act applies to essential employers in industries identified as critical to remain open during emergency by the Governor of a Federal or State agency.  Essential employers must meet requirements for safe working conditions and comply with testing and reporting requirements.  Paid leave above and beyond Sick and Safe leave must be offered if funding is provided by the Federal or State government.  A more detailed summary of the Act can be found here. Effective May 28, 2021.

HB73- Telework.  Requires establishment of the Office of Telework Assistance in the Department of Commerce to develop and post best practices for telework, and to administer a grant program for certain qualifying businesses that develop telework policies.  State government and certain higher education institutions, including community colleges, must establish a telework program, designating positions for eligible telework and establishing guidelines for security and protection of information systems. Beginning FY 2023, criteria for designated telework positions must be negotiated if State and/or higher education employees affected by the telework policies are represented by a union.  County governments must establish a county-wide telework policy and guidelines, and may designate eligible positions.  Effective July 1, 2021.

HB290- Employment Discrimination- Time For Filing Complaints. Amends Maryland’s Fair Employment Practices Act (FEPA) to extend the time period for filing a charge of discrimination alleging an unlawful employment practice other than harassment from 180 days to 300 days after the last alleged discriminatory act, if the charge is filed with the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights (MCCR) or a local agency such as a county human relations commission.  Effective October 1, 2021.

HB 1154- Labor and Employment- Economic Stabilization Act. Revises Maryland mini-WARN Act which requires employers to provide at least 60 days written notice of a RIF to affected employees and other external parties by: redefining and clarifying situations that constitute a RIF under the Act; excluding certain employees from a RIF count who accept an offer to transfer; permitting an employer to provide notice of a RIF as soon as practicable but less than 60 days if notice precludes efforts to pursue capital or business to avoid the RIF or the RIF is due to any natural disaster.  Notably, employers are not excused for failure to provide 60 days’ notice in the event of “business circumstances that were not reasonably foreseeable,” a provision often relied upon by employers under federal WARN during the pandemic.  Effective October 1, 2021.

HB 1210- Corporate Diversity- Board, Executive Leadership, and Mission. Prohibits certain entities from qualifying for certain state benefits, including capital grant funding, tax credits, or receipt of a state contract with a value of $1 million or more, unless the entity can demonstrate membership of underrepresented communities in the entity’s board or executive leadership, or support for underrepresented communities in the entity’s mission.  Underrepresented community means a community whose members self-identify as Black, African American, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, Native Hawaiian, or Alaska Native, or with one or more of these racial or ethnic groups. Effective July1, 2022.

SB 107- Secure Maryland Wage Act. Requires individuals employed in certain non-exempt positions at BWI Airport and Penn Station to be paid wages as specified in the Act that will gradually increase each year from $13.50 an hour beginning January 1, 2022, up to $16.00 an hour with a supplemental benefit rate beginning January 1, 2026.  A tip credit may not be included as part of the wage rate, and covered employees must be allowed to receive and retain all tips received.  Effective October 1, 2021.

SB 473- Bereavement Leave. Amends Maryland’s Flexible Leave Act to allow employees to use leave with pay for bereavement leave under the same conditions and rules that would apply if an employee took leave for an employee’s own illness.  Effective October 1, 2021.

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