Coming out of the 2019 legislative session, the Maryland General Assembly passed several new bills that will impact employers in Maryland. Three of the most significant ones are described here:
1. “The Fight for Fifteen” – Minimum Wage is Going Up
After voting to override Governor Larry Hogan’s veto, the Maryland legislature has successfully enacted a new law that eventually raises the minimum wage, statewide, to $15.00 per hour. Despite opposition from Governor Hogan, the Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations concerned about the impact on small businesses, the General Assembly overrode Governor Hogan’s veto with overwhelming majorities in both the House and the Senate.
Prior to the passage of this bill, the minimum wage in Maryland was $10.10. The new bill requires incremental increases to the minimum wage as follows for employers with 15 or more employees:
For employers with 14 or fewer employees, the minimum wage will increase as follows:
Lastly, employers may pay employees under 18 years of age a training wage rate that is 85% of the State minimum wage.
2. Ban the Box
The General Assembly also passed a bill called “Criminal Record Screening Practices (Ban the Box),” which prohibits certain employers from inquiring about an applicant’s “criminal record.” The “box” referred to in the name of the bill is the box that employment application forms often include to be checked when the applicant has a criminal record.
The law applies to employers of with 15 or more fulltime employees and defines “criminal record” as:
The law bans employers from requiring an applicant to disclose a criminal record at any time prior to the first in-person interview. However, the law does not apply to employers that work with minors or vulnerable adults, or that are required by law to seek criminal history information from applicants. The bill authorizes the Commissioner of Labor and Industry to conduct an investigation to determine whether certain provisions of the law have been violated on receipt of a written complaint, and to assess monetary penalties for violations. Also, the law expressly does not supersede local laws that impose greater restrictions on employers (currently Baltimore City, Montgomery County, and Prince George’s County).
3. Workplace Harassment
The General Assembly passed a bill expanding protections for individuals alleging workplace harassment for all protected categories including sexual harassment. The state’s prior workplace harassment law applied only to employers of fifteen or more employees. The new law applies to all employers in Maryland regardless of size. In addition, the law now extends harassment protection to employers’ independent contractors. Finally, the law extends the statute of limitations for workplace harassment by providing individuals two years to file a complaint of harassment with federal or local human relations commissions.
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