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Important Labor and Employment Law Changes in Maryland

May 27, 2014

MARYLAND ENACTS NEW LABOR & EMPLOYMENT LAWS

Maryland passed a number of new laws in the 2014 Session that are of particular importance to Maryland employers. The impact of the new laws will depend upon an employer’s particular policies and practices.

State Minimum Wage Raised

The state minimum wage of $7.25 per hour will increase over the next four years, beginning with $8.00 per hour on January 1, 2015 and eventually reaching $10.10 per hour by July 1, 2018. The new law also: (1) freezes tipped workers’ hourly wage at the current rate of $3.63, half the current minimum wage of $7.25; (2) allows employers to pay a “training wage” of 85% of the state minimum wage for employees 19 years of age or younger for the first six months of their employment; and (3) provides for a reduced minimum wage for employees working for seasonal amusement or recreational establishments. Finally, the legislature allowed for State enforcement of local minimum wage laws, including  the recently increased minimum wage laws in Montgomery County and Prince George’s County, both of which set higher wage rates (up to $11.30 per hour) than the new Statewide schedule .

Gender Identity Now Protected Against Discrimination

Under the Fairness for all Marylanders Act of 2014, gender identity was added to the list of categories protected against discrimination under the Maryland Human Relations Law The Act defines gender identity as “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 a person’s gender identity; or (2) any other evidence that the gender identity is sincerely held as a part of the person’s core identity.” The Act allows employers to maintain reasonable workplace appearance and dress standards that are directly related to the nature of the employment but must allow employees to appear and dress consistent with their gender identity.

Unpaid Parental Leave for Employees of Small Businesses

Maryland added protections to employees of small businesses similar to those under the federal  Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The new law applies to employers with 15 to 49 employees (in other words, employers too small for coverage under the federal law) and applies only to family leave, not medical leave. Eligible employees are guaranteed six workweeks of unpaid parental leave during any 12-month period for the birth of a child or the placement of a foster or adopted child.  Employees are eligible if they have been employed by the employer for at least 12 months and have worked 1,250 hours during the previous 12 months. If the employer provides paid leave, either the employee or the employer may opt to substitute paid leave for the unpaid parental leave. After the parental leave, the employee must be returned to his or her position or to an equivalent job. The law may be enforced by the Commissioner of Labor or by private cause of action, including the possibility of attorney’s fees to successful plaintiffs.

RWLLS Labor & Employment Law Group

If you would like assistance in updating your policies and procedures to meet the new legal requirements, or if you are interested in training your management and human resources professionals on the new laws, please contact Joyce Smithey at (410) 269-5066 or jsmithey@rwlls.com. Ms. Smithey leads Rifkin, Weiner, Livingston, Levitan & Silver, LLC’s labor and employment practice. In 2014, Ms. Smithey was once again selected for inclusion as a Maryland Super Lawyer in the area of Employment and Labor Law. Ms. Smithey was named among Maryland’s Top 50 Women Attorneys, as published in Baltimore Magazine.

LEGAL DISCLAIMER. Rifkin, Weiner, Livingston, Levitan & Silver, LLC welcomes the opportunity to provide information in this alert to the general public as well as our clients. The information contained in this website does not constitute legal advice or legal opinion and has been prepared for general informational purposes only. The information in this website should not be relied upon to make any legal decisions and is not intended as an alternative to legal counsel. The information contained in this website is presented without any representation or warranty whatsoever as to the completeness, accuracy, currency, content, or quality of the information provided. This information is provided on an “as is” basis and Rifkin, Weiner, Livingston, Levitan & Silver, LLC expressly disclaims any and all warranties, express or implied, including without limitation warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose, with respect to this information.

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