Baltimore, Md. (January 31, 2023) - 2022 brought about several changes in labor and employment law that will have ramifications for employers across the State of Maryland. Next door in the nation's capital, there were also several notable employment and labor regulatory amendments. Below is a summary of these significant changes.

Maryland Labor & Employment Law Updates

Anti-Discrimination/Harassment Law Expansion

Through SB 450 and HB 278, the Maryland legislature expanded the definitions of unlawful harassment and discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

SB 450 – Expansion of Sexual Harassment Definition

With the passage of SB 450, Maryland employers should be mindful of the potentially significant expansion of the statutory definition of "harassment." The previous definition of "harassment" in Maryland was consistent with federal law. Under that definition, the conduct was required to be "severe or pervasive." Under the new definition, harassment will now be evaluated on "the totality of circumstances."

This lessened standard could result in increased filings of borderline cases that would not have previously met the threshold. It could also become a major obstacle in advancing summary judgment arguments in these claims

SB 450 also includes sexual harassment within the definition of "harassment," which was not the case in prior legislation. Moreover, the law mandates sexual harassment prevention training for state government employees.

HB 278 – Expansion of Reasonable Accommodation Definition

Conversely, with the passage of HB 278, Maryland is now emulating the federal law requirements for employers' obligations to reasonably accommodate an employee's disability under the ADA. With this change, an employer is now required to reasonably accommodate an applicant's disability. The prior disability discrimination law was limited to employees. Under both Maryland and federal law, an employer does not need to provide an accommodation that poses an undue hardship.

Other Notable Changes

SB 451 Extended Tolling Period

SB 451 extends the window for a plaintiff's right to file an employment action in state court. The bill tolls all timing limitations on filing a civil action alleging an unlawful employment practice while an administrative charge remains pending. Employers and counsel should be mindful of this change when calculating deadlines in contemplation of a statute of limitations argument.

Time to Care Act of 2022 – Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program (SB 275)

With the passage of SB 275, employers will ultimately become responsible for providing eligible employees with 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, with the possibility of an additional 12 weeks of paid parental leave (for a possible total of 24 weeks of paid leave). Employees will be entitled to leave for any of the following reasons: (a) to care for a new child within the first year after childbirth, adoption, foster care placement, or kinship care; (b) to aid a family member with a serious health condition; (c) to aid in the employee's own serious health condition; (d) to tend to a service member that is an employee's next of kin; or (e) to tend to a qualifying emergency related to the deployment of a service member that is an employee's next of kin. Employers will need to provide this paid sick leave to both part-time and temporary employees.

This program will be administered by the state and funded by contributions from employers and employees, the amount of which will be determined by the Secretary of Labor. Contributions will begin October 1, 2023, and benefits will be paid starting January 1, 2025. The Maryland Department of Labor will issue regulations to implement the provisions of the law.

The Secretary of Labor will set the rates of contribution for employers and employees by June 1, 2023 and will review them bi-annually. Though all employers are covered by the law, only employers of 15 or more workers must contribute to the insurance pool.

For the moment, employers do not need to change any policies or advise employees, as the change will not occur until 2025. However, by year's end all employers will be monetarily affected via the mandatory contributions to the fund

Washington D.C. Labor & Employment Law Updates

District of Columbia Tipped Wage Workers Fairness Amendment Act (TWWF)

Employers of tipped employees must maintain sexual harassment training and an anti-sexual harassment policy outlining guidelines for reporting claims to their employer and the D.C. Office of Human Rights, and document all claims reported to management. By December 31, 2022, employers were required to submit copies of their anti-sexual harassment policy, number of employees that received the policy in 2020 and 2021, and total number of reported sexual harassment claims in 2020 and 2021. Employers must also submit these reports for the 2022 year by March 1, 2023.

Washington D.C. Paid Leave Law

Washington, D.C. amended and enacted the Universal Paid Leave Emergency Amendment Act of 2022. This Act increases the maximum duration of paid leave benefits, decreases the employer payroll tax contribution rates, and removes the one-week waiting period for employees to receive benefits. Effective October 1, 2022, during a 52-week work period, the maximum duration of paid leave is as follows: (a) 12 weeks for parental leave; (b) 12 weeks for family leave; (c) 12 weeks for medical leave; and (d) two weeks for pre-natal leave.

Cannabis Employment Protections

Employers in the District of Columbia are prohibited from firing or failing to hire individuals for use of cannabis or failure to pass an employer-required drug screening unless the position is deemed safety sensitive or in circumstances where the employer is required to act under a federal statute, federal regulations, or a federal contract or funding agreement.

Living Wage Act

Effective January 1, 2023, the D.C. minimum wage will increase to $16.50. On July 1, 2023, the minimum wage will increase to $17.00.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.