by Kevin C. McCormick
Maryland’s new Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, which takes effect on October 1, will prohibit employers from providing less than favorable employment opportunities to or discriminating against employees by paying different rates based on their sex or gender identity.
Under the new law, which was signed by Governor Lawrence Hogan in May, employers will be prohibited from relying on sex or gender identity to assign or direct employees into less favorable career tracks or positions. Employers also will be prohibited from failing to provide information about promotions or advancement in the full range of careers or career tracks offered, and they will not be able to limit or deprive employees of employment opportunities that would otherwise be available to them.
The law includes exceptions to allow legitimate variations in wages, such as seniority systems, merit increase systems, shift differentials, and jobs that require different abilities or skills. There is also an exception for systems that measure performance based on quality or quantity of production or factors other than gender that are job-related and consistent with business necessity.
The law contains pay transparency provisions that make it unlawful for an employer to (1) prohibit an employee from asking about, discussing, or disclosing her own wages or the wages of another employee or asking for a reason for the amount of her wages; (2) requiring an employee to sign a waiver of her right to disclose or discuss wages; or (3) taking adverse action against an employee for asking about, discussing, or disclosing wages, asking for a reason for the amount of wages, or aiding or encouraging another employee’s exercise of those rights.
The law allows employers to have a written policy establishing reasonable limitations on the time, place, and manner of discussing wages during the workday and permits employers to discipline employees for violating the policy. The law also allows employers to prohibit the disclosure of proprietary information, trade secret information, or any information that is otherwise subject to legal protection as well as the disclosure of wage information to a competitor.
For more information on Maryland’s new equal pay law, see the May issue of Maryland Employment Law Letter.