New Maryland Laws Re: Parental Leave and Gender Identity Discrimination
Two new Maryland workplace laws that just went into effect in 2014, regarding parental leave for employers with 15-49 employees and also gender identity discrimination. The Parental Leave Act is particularly important because it imposes new obligations on thousands of smaller Maryland employers, who now must provide six weeks of unpaid leave to employees for the birth or adoption of a child.
We are happy to provide compliance assistance with these and any other workplace laws.
New Laws Affecting Maryland Employers
Parental Leave Act
Maryland’s new Parental Leave Act (PLA) applies to smaller employers with between 15‐49 employees and requires those companies to provide employees with six weeks of unpaid leave per year for the birth or adoption of a child.
In order to be eligible for PLA protection, an employee must have been with the company for at least 12 months, and have worked at least 1,250 hours in the last year, prior to taking leave. An employee requesting leave must be employed at a Maryland work location at which at least 15 employees operate within a 75‐mile radius. If the worksite is within 75 miles of an associated office outside the state, and no more than 49 employees work between the two locations, workers may be covered by the FMLA and PLA simultaneously. In this case, an employee’s PLA and FMLA leaves for the birth of a child would run concurrently, and may also coincide with paid time off.
An employer may require an employee give at least 30 days’ notice for the need for leave. Notice is not required in exceptional cases such as a premature birth or an unanticipated adoption. An employer may deny requested leave on the grounds that an employee’s extended absence would cause “substantial and grievous economic injury to [the company’s] operations.”
If an employer violates the PLA, an employee has the right to take private action, but cannot hold supervisors personally liable. The law also allows an employee to seek damages including salary, wages, benefits, and any unaccounted‐for compensation, along with reasonable legal costs and attorney fees. Employers covered by the law should start preparing for PLA immediately by developing a written leave request policy and process; documenting all requests, denials, and approvals; and instructing all management and supervisory staff on the law.
Fairness for All Marylanders Act
Also effective October 1, 2014, is the Fairness for All Marylanders Act, which prohibits Maryland employers from discriminating against job applicants or employees on the basis of gender identity. The term “gender identity” is broadly defined as:
the gender‐related identity, appearance, expression, or behavior of a person, regardless of the person’s assigned sex at birth, which may be demonstrated by (1) consistent and uniform assertion of the person’s gender identity; or (2) any other evidence that the gender identity is sincerely held as part of the person’s core identity.
The law also provides that employers may continue to require employees to adhere to “reasonable workplace appearance, grooming, and dress standards that are directly related to the nature of the employment of the employee, and are not precluded by any provision of state or federal law as long as the employer allows the employee to appear, to groom, and to dress consistent with the employee’s gender identity.”
This law is similar to one that was already in effect in Baltimore City and three counties. An exemption
to this law is granted to religious entities.