On January 12, 2018, following nearly a year of speculation in the wake of Governor Larry Hogan’s veto of the paid sick leave bill passed by the Maryland General Assembly near the close of last year’s legislative session, the General Assembly and the Senate have overridden the governor’s veto. The Maryland Healthy Working Families Act (HB 1/SB 230) will now take effect in 30 days and will have significant implications for Maryland employers.
The core provision of the Act requires all Maryland employers to provide leave time that can be used by an employee for illness or for other personal obligations specified in the Act. Employers with 15 or more employees must provide paid leave, while employers with 14 or fewer employees may provide the leave on an unpaid basis.
The leave time must accrue at a rate of at least 1 hour for every 30 hours worked by the employee, up to a maximum of 40 hours of leave time in a single year. Employees may accrue up to a maximum of 64 hours of leave time and may use up to 64 hours in a single year.
The leave mandated by the Act may be used by an employee for a variety of personal reasons, including the employee’s own illness, to obtain medical care for a family member, to care for an ill family member, for maternity or paternity leave, or to obtain services in connection with an incident of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
The Act’s requirements regarding the rate at which leave is accrued and the reasons for which leave may be used will be of particular note to employers that already offer paid leave to their employees. Although the Act provides that it may not be construed to require an employer to modify an existing paid leave policy, preexisting policies will be given deference only if they permit employees to accrue and use leave on terms that are at least equivalent to those set forth in the Act.
The above description provides a summary of the Act’s main provisions. In taking steps to comply with the Act, employers are wise to consult with their legal counsel because the Act contains a host of provisions that modify or eliminate its general requirements with respect to certain industries and certain groups of employees. The Act also imposes an obligation on employers to provide notice to their employees regarding the terms of the Act, along with record-keeping requirements relating to the accrual and use of leave.
The enactment of the Healthy Working Families Act makes Maryland one of fewer than 10 states to have enacted mandatory paid leave on a statewide basis. The Act does contain a provision prohibiting local jurisdictions from enacting their own paid leave ordinances. The Act, however, provides that Montgomery County’s paid leave ordinance will not be affected by the passage of the new legislation.