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New Changes to Maryland Employee Leave Policies and Penalties - Is Your Business in Compliance?

October 2019

By: Marissa K. Lilja

Most private employers need to be aware of two new Maryland laws that went into effect on October 1, 2019.  The first grants protection for employees who require leave to donate an organ or bone marrow.  The second adds new penalties to any employer who violates the current Equal Pay for Equal Work law.

Organ and Bone Marrow Donor Leave

All employers with 15 or more Maryland employees are now required to grant unpaid leave to any employee who has worked at least 1,250 hours in the past 12 months when that employee requests time off to donate an organ or bone marrow. The employee is entitled to 60 days for organ donation leave in any 12-month period and 30 days for bone marrow donation leave in any 12-month period. It is important to note that the organ/bone marrow donor leave does not run concurrently with any FMLA leave, so the organ and bone marrow donation leave may not be counted against an employee’s outstanding FMLA leave, if applicable. Although the leave is unpaid, there is a specification that any employee who works on a commission basis must be paid any commission that becomes due during the leave.

In order to receive the protected donor leave, the employee must provide, in writing, documentation verifying that the employee is donating an organ or bone marrow and that there is a medical necessity for the donation. 

Employers may not consider time taken as donation leave to be a break in continuous service for the purpose of an employee’s rights to salary adjustment, sick leave, vacation, paid time off, annual leave, or seniority.  Further, any employee who returns to work after taking donation leave is entitled to be restored to the same or an equivalent position.  While an employee is on donation leave, the employer must maintain health insurance for the employee.

There are penalties for any employer who violates the terms of the act, including any retaliation for the leave request. It is important for all employers with 15 or more employees to update their leave policies according to the new organ/bone marrow donor leave requirements immediately.

New Equal Pay Penalties

The 2019 amendment increases the penalty for any violations of the Equal Pay for Equal Work law by employers.  The new law authorizes a civil penalty equal to 10% of the amount of damages owed by the employer if that employer has violated the law at least twice in the previous three years. Any penalty assessed will be paid to the General Fund of Maryland.

This penalty applies to violations of the Equal Pay for Equal Work law, which governs all Maryland employers, regardless of size. This law prohibits an employer from discriminating against employees by (1) paying a wage to employees of one sex or gender identity at a rate less than the rate paid to other employees who work in the same establishment and perform comparable work; or (2) providing less favorable employment opportunities based on sex or gender identity. This law does not prohibit wage variations based on other characteristics that do not involve sex or gender identity.  It is important to note that the law also provides that employers may not prohibit an employee from inquiring about, discussing, or disclosing the employee’s wages; although, employers may implement written policies establishing reasonable workday limitations on the time, place, and manner in which an employee may discuss wages.

For more information about these new amendments and other employment concerns, contact Marissa Lilja or any member of the employment group.

This information has been prepared by Tydings for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

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