I hope everyone had an enjoyable and safe Labor Day weekend. For many of us, it’s back to work. And on that note, here is a rundown of several Maryland labor and employment laws set to go into effect October 1.
Wage and Salary History Inquiries — Employers will soon be prohibited from seeking an applicant’s wage history through an employee or agent or from a current or former employee, or relying on wage history, when screening or considering the applicant or determining the applicant’s wages. If, however, the employer has made an initial offer of employment with an offer of compensation, and the applicant has voluntarily provided his or her wage history, then the employer may seek to confirm the applicant’s wage history and rely on wage history to support a higher offer of compensation. Employers may rely on wage history in this instance only if the higher wage does not create an unlawful pay differential based on sex or gender identity. And, if an applicant requests the wage range for the position in question, the employer must provide it.
Employers will be prohibited from retaliating against or refusing to interview or hire an applicant because the applicant requested a wage range or refused to provide a wage history, and discriminating against individuals for filing a complaint or action or participating in a proceeding related to a violation of the law. The law also will prohibit employers from taking adverse action against employees for inquiring about their own wages.
Use of Facial Recognition Technology — This law will prohibit employers from using a “facial recognition service” (defined as technology that analyzes facial features and is used for recognition or persistent tracking of individuals in still or video images) to create a facial template during an applicant’s interview for employment unless the applicant consents by signing a written waiver. The waiver must state in plain language (1) the applicant’s name; (2) the date of the interview; (3) that the applicant consents to the use of facial recognition during the interview; and (4) whether the applicant read the consent waiver.
Hairstyle Discrimination — Under Maryland’s Fair Employment Practices Act (FEPA), the definition of “race” will expressly include “traits associated with race, including hair texture, afro hairstyles, and protective hairstyles,” which are defined as “includ[ing] braids, twists, and locks.” FEPA generally covers employers that have 15 or more employees. However, employers of all sizes are subject to FEPA’s harassment provisions.
Maryland Healthy Working Families Act — Under the State’s paid sick leave law, a “family member” will soon include the legal guardian or ward of the employee or employee’s spouse.
Maryland Economic Stabilization Act — Revisions to Maryland’s mini-WARN Act will require employers to follow several mandatory guidelines when facing a reduction in operations. The law covers employers with 50 or more employees and that have operated an industrial, commercial, or business enterprise in Maryland for at least one year. These employers must provide written notice at least 60 days in advance of a covered reduction in operations.
Notice must be provided to (1) all employees at the workplace subject to the reduction in operations; (2) applicable employee representatives or bargaining units; (3) individuals who work less than 20 hours on average per week or who have worked for the employer for less than six months in the immediately preceding 12 months (these individuals are not “employees” under this law); (4) the applicable State Dislocated Worker Unit; and (5) all elected officials in the jurisdiction where the workplace subject to the reduction in operations is located.
Notice must include (1) the name an address of the workplace where the reduction in operations will occur; (2) the name, telephone number, and email address of a workplace supervisor the employees may contact for more information; (3) a statement explaining whether the reduction in operations is expected to be permanent or temporary and whether the workplace is expected to shut down; and (4) the expected date the reduction in operations will begin.
If employers have not taken steps to ensure compliance with these new laws, they would be well served to do so now.