Montgomery County, MD Lowers Standard for Proving Harassment in the Workplace

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On October 6, 2020, the County Council for Montgomery County, Maryland unanimously voted to significantly revise its Human Rights Law as it relates to harassment in the workplace. The Bill was signed into law on October 16, 2020.  More specifically, Bill 14-201 expressly rejects the familiar “severe or pervasive” standard that applies under federal law and replaces the standard with the following:  “[whether] a reasonable victim of discrimination would consider the conduct to be more than a petty slight, trivial inconvenience, or minor annoyance.” In addition, the victim must also prove one of the following three elements:

  • That “submission to the conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment”
  • “submission to or rejection of the conduct is used as a basis for employment decisions affecting the individual” or
  • “The conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating a working environment that is perceived by the victim to be abusive or hostile.”

In passing Bill 14-20, Montgomery County, Maryland joins states like New York and California in departing from the severe and pervasive requirement and adopting more relaxed standards for proving workplace harassment.

The Bill will go into effect on January 15, 2021.  Employers in Montgomery County, Maryland should update their anti-discrimination training programs and employee handbooks to account for the new standard.  Littler will continue to monitor developments related to this legislation, particularly as the new standard is tested in Maryland courts.

 

Footnote

1  Bill 14-20 amends Montgomery County Code, Chapter 27, Human Rights and Civil Liberties – Discriminatory Employment Practices, Sections 27-19.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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