Understanding the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act

On Jan. 12, 2018, Maryland became the ninth state to adopt a mandatory sick leave statute, when the Maryland General Assembly overrode Governor Larry Hogan’s veto of legislation requiring Maryland employers to provide sick and safe leave to their employees. Known as the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act, this law provides employees with up to 40 hours of sick and safe leave each year and went into effect on Feb. 11, 2018.

Who is Affected?

The Maryland Healthy Working Families Act applies to all employers, including state and local governments, in the state of Maryland. However, the law distinguishes between large and small employers. For employers with 14 or fewer employees, leave may be provided on an unpaid basis. For employers with 15 or more employees, sick and safe leave is paid at the employee’s normal pay wage rate, unless the employee is a tipped employee, in which case the leave may be paid at minimum wage. Note that full-time, part-time, and temporary employees are counted when determining the number of employees.

There are certain exceptions to the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act, including workers who:

  • Are 17 years old or younger
  • Work fewer than 12 hours per week
  • Are independent contractors
  • Are real estate agents or real estate brokers
  • Work in the construction industry and are party to collective bargaining agreements in which both the employer and union agree to waive the Act’s requirements
  • Work in the agricultural sector on an agricultural operation
  • Work on an as-needed basis in the health or human services industry.

Also exempt are employers with existing collective bargaining agreements entered into before June 1, 2017, for the duration of the contract term.

How the Law Works

Employees covered by the law must be permitted to earn at least 40 hours of leave per year (paid or unpaid, depending whether the employer is categorized as a large or a small employer). The employee can earn leave in one of two ways:

  1. Leave can be earned on an accrual basis per the number of hours worked, or
  2. Leave can be awarded in a lump sum at the beginning of each year.

Another important part of the employer’s obligations under the law is giving notice to employees of their entitlement to leave, the provisions of the law (including its provisions that protect employees from retaliation for using their leave), and the ways an employee may make a complaint against an employer. The Commissioner of the Division of Labor and Industry has developed a poster for employees and model provisions for employee handbooks.

If you are a Maryland employer, you should review your current leave policies to see if any changes are needed to comply with the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act. If your leave policy is equivalent or more generous than that which is required by the law, you will not need to make any changes. But if you do need to modify your policies, your compliance will depend on a variety of factors specific to your business.

For further information about the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act and how it might apply to your business, please contact Lusk Law, LLC.

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