Employer Alert - Maryland Sick/Safe Leave Law

Posted by Howard Hoffman | Jan 16, 2018

On January 12, 2018, the Maryland General Assembly overrode Governor Hogan's veto of 2017 mandatory paid leave law (House Bill 1), providing “sick and safe” leave.  Therefore, Maryland employers are now required to provide paid sick and safe leave to employees (1 hour for each 30 hours worked) to cover certain specific circumstances (*generally the purpose of this leave is to cover personal sickness, family sickness, maternity/paternity leave, and absences due to domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking).

The first immediate issue is that this law goes into effect in 30 days, so employers need to get a “PTO” policy together to cover sick and safe leave, and get their payroll ready to calculate and accrue this leave.  The Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation is rushing to develop some guidance and procedures, but all employers are covered (an employer of 15 employees or less need only provide unpaid time off for leave purposes).

This is a pretty significant burden for small employers.  Existing PTO policies may be sufficient, but beware of a situation where an employee uses all of his PTO for personal time or vacation (non-mandated leave) and then requires sick and/or safe leave.  In such a circumstance, the employee would still be entitled to paid time off (in other words, they could take sick leave even if they have used all of their accrued PTO for a vacation).

If you are interested in a review of your company's policy, please let me know.  From a mechanical perspective, this law seems to force employers with already generous leave benefits into maintaining a “vacation/personal” leave bank and a mandated “sick and safe” leave bank, and then strictly enforce management rights under the new law (as to notice, etc.).   Recall that Maryland employers are not required to even offer vacation or personal leave benefits, so employers could just offer sick and safe leave and not vacation leave and keep it simple. 

Of course, some employers may now want to reduce non-mandated leave (vacation, etc.) if you are trying to keep total leave allowances the same and fear employees will game the system and max out their vacation leave allotment and then abuse their sick and safe leave mandated allowance.  There are a lot of issues raised by this legislation.  You can find the legislation at http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2017RS/bills/hb/hb0001E.pdf 

[And yes this law also covers tipped employees and requires the wage paid to be the full-minimum wage (not the sub-minimum wage of $3.63/hour)].

If you offer no leave benefits at all, or offer leave on an ad-hoc basis, this law may come as a shock.  Complying in all regards (particularly the record and payroll requirements) can get tricky, although a similar law has been in place in Montgomery County for over a year and I have not heard many complaints (although many county employers are not complaint and many employees are not knowledgeable of their rights).

Please give us a call if you require assistance in complying with this law or any other employment law matter.

About the Author

Howard Hoffman

Education University of Maryland School of Law, Baltimore, Maryland Juris Doctorate: Awarded May 1999, with honors (top 15% of graduating class) Law Journal: Associate Editor, The Business Lawyer (ABA Publication) (1998-1999) Recipient: Employment Law Prize Recipient: Joseph Bernstein Pr...

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