On January 12, the Maryland General Assembly overrode the May 2017 veto of House Bill 1, the Healthy Working Families Act, which requires employers to provide paid and unpaid earned sick and safe leave to its employees. The law is effective February 11 and contains the following provisions:
Covered Employers: Employers with 15 or more employees must provide earned paid sick and safe leave. Employers with fewer employees must provide unpaid earned sick and safe leave.
Employee Eligibility: All employees are eligible for the MD Healthy Working Families Act, with a few exceptions, including workers who work less than 12 hours per week and certain employees in the construction industry. Employees are not eligible to use earned sick and safe leave until they have worked for the employer for 106 calendar days. Employees do not accrue earned sick and safe leave during:
- 2–week pay period in which the employee worked fewer than 24 hours total;
- 1–week pay period if the employee worked fewer than a combined total of 24 hours in the current and the immediately preceding pay period; or
- Any pay period in which the employee is paid twice a month regardless of the number of weeks in a pay period; and the employee worked fewer than 26 hours in the pay period.
Leave Reasons: An eligible employee can use earned sick and safe time for the following reasons:
- Medical Needs: An employee or family member’s mental or physical illness, injury, or condition, including preventive care;
- Maternity or Paternity leave: Bonding with a child; and
- Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, or Stalking: Needs related to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, including physical or mental health care needs, obtaining victim or legal services, attending legal proceedings, and time needed for relocation.
Covered Relationships: A family member includes a child, parent, spouse, grandparent, grandchild, and sibling.
Amount of Leave: Employees accrue earned sick and safe leave at a rate of 1 hour for every 30 hours worked. Employees can earn up to 40 hours of leave per year, and can use up to 64 hours per year. Instead of using an accrual method, an employer can frontload the full amount of earned sick and safe leave that an employee would earn over the course of the year at the beginning of the year.
Carryover: An employee can carry over 40 hours of earned sick and safe leave per year. An employer that frontloads earned sick and safe leave does not have to permit carryover.
Rate of Pay: An employee must be paid the same wage rate as the employee normally earns. For tipped employees, an employer must pay the applicable minimum wage.
Approval of Leave: An employer can deny a request to take earned sick and safe leave if an employee fails to provide the required notice to an employer, or if the employee’s absence will cause a disruption to the employer.
Increments of Leave: An employee can take earned sick and safe leave in the smallest increment that the employer’s payroll system uses to account for absences or use of the employee’s work time. The maximum increment an employer can impose is 4 hours.
Documentation: An employer can require an employee who uses earned sick and safe leave to provide verification that the leave was used appropriately if:
- the leave was used for more than two consecutive scheduled shifts; or
- the employee used the leave during the period between the first 107 and 120 calendar days that the employee was employed by the employer, and the employee agreed to provide verification under terms agreed to by the employer and the employee at the time of hire.
Employee Notice: If the need to use leave is foreseeable, an employer can require an employee to provide reasonable advance notice of 7 days. If the need for leave is not foreseeable, an employee must provide notice to an employer as soon as practicable. Employees must also generally comply with the employer’s notice or procedural requirements for requesting or reporting other leave, as long as those requirements do not interfere with the employee’s ability to use earned sick and safe leave.
Employer Notice: An employer must provide a statement with the amount of the employee’s available earned sick and safe leave with an employee’s pay. An employer can meet this requirement by utilizing an online system containing the balance of the employee’s available earned sick and safe leave.
An employer must notify employees of their entitlement to earned sick and safe leave. The notice must include:
- a statement of how earned sick and safe leave is accrued;
- the leave reasons for earned sick and safe leave;
- a statement regarding the prohibition against the employer taking adverse action against an employee; and
- information regarding the right of an employee to report an alleged violation of the law to the Maryland Commissioner of Labor and Industry or to bring a civil action.
The Maryland Commissioner of Labor and Industry will
- create and make available a poster and a model notice for employers;
- develop a model sick and safe leave policy and other written guidance for employees concerning employee benefits or leave provided by the employer; and
- provide technical assistance to an employer, if an employer requests assistance regarding implementing the provisions of the new law.
The Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation will post the notice and model sick and safe leave policy on its web site in a downloadable format.
Recordkeeping: An employer must keep a record of earned sick and safe leave accrued and used by each employee for at least 3 years.
What Employers Must Do Now
Maryland employers are responsible for compliance with this law beginning February 11, 2018. Employers should immediately:
- Update paid leave policies to ensure that it offers paid sick and safe leave in accordance with the law’s requirements; and
- Train appropriate personnel (Human Resources, Benefits, supervisors, managers etc.) on the law’s requirements and employee’s rights to use paid sick and safe leave.