As of October 1, 2016, employers with at least one employee that do business in Montgomery County, Maryland, including businesses with no facilities or physical presence in the County, will be required to provide covered employees paid leave under the Montgomery County Earned Sick and Safe Leave Act.
The Act, the first of its kind in Maryland, requires employers to provide a minimum amount of paid and unpaid leave for covered employees. Covered employees under the Act include any individual instructed to work or be present in the County, excluding independent contractors or individuals who do not regularly work more than eight hours per week in the County.
The Act requires employers to allow covered employees to accrue leave at a rate not less than one hour of leave for every 30 hours of work performed in the County, up to a maximum of 56 hours of paid leave per year for employers with at least five employees, and only up to 32 hours of paid and 24 hours of unpaid leave for employers with fewer than five employees. In addition to permitting employees to take leave to care for their own mental or physical illness or condition, the Act also allows employees to take leave for a host of other reasons, such as caring for a family member’s illness or condition, to obtain preventative medical care, or to seek medical, legal, or other agency services as a result of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
As the Act was enacted for the purpose of creating a minimum level of sick and safe leave within the County, its requirements are not especially burdensome, and employers currently providing leave in an amount and accrual rate greater or equal to the requirements are likely already compliant with the Act’s most substantive provisions. However, employers are well-advised to consult counsel to carefully review their leave and paid time off policies to ensure compliance with all the nuances of the Act—such as, for example, its provisions regarding employee notice, reinstatement of leave for rehired individuals, and transfer of leave—or risk unwanted attention from the Montgomery County Office of Human Rights, the agency tasked with enforcement of the Act, including its provisions prohibiting discrimination and retaliation against employees’ exercise of rights granted by the Act.
Even employers with facilities outside Montgomery County need to evaluate if, and to what extent, their policies or operations need adjustment given that the Act’s provisions apply to any employee who regularly works more than eight hours per week within the County. Employers of salesforces, delivery or commercial drivers, construction workers, or other positions requiring regular travel to and within the County may be subject to the Act’s provisions and liable for any associated violations. Accordingly, all employers with sufficient contact with Montgomery County should consult counsel and evaluate the extent of their employees’ activities within the County and adjust, when appropriate, their policies to be compliant with the Act or curtail their employees’ contact with the County to escape the Act’s coverage.