Maryland General Assembly Overrides Governor's Veto: Paid Sick Leave Law To Take Effect in February

Date: January 12, 2018

Following nearly a year of speculation, the Maryland General Assembly has voted to override Governor Larry Hogan’s veto of the paid sick leave bill passed by the General Assembly near the close of last year’s legislative session.  The Maryland Healthy Working Families Act (HB 1/SB230) will now take effect in thirty days absent further action by the General Assembly to provide additional time to prepare for its implementation, and will have significant implications for Maryland employers. 

The core provision of the Act requires all Maryland employers to provide their employees with leave time that can be used by an employee for illness or for other personal obligations specified in the Act.  Employers with 15 or more employees must provide paid leave, while employers with 14 or fewer employees may provide the leave on an unpaid basis.  The leave time must accrue at a rate of at least one hour for every thirty hours worked by the employee, up to a maximum of forty hours of leave time in a single year.  Employees may accrue up to a maximum of sixty-four hours of leave time, and may use up to sixty-four hours in a single year. 

The leave mandated by the Act may be used by an employee for a variety of personal reasons, including the employee’s own illness, to obtain medical care for a family member, to care for an ill family member, for maternity or paternity leave, or to obtain services in connection with an incident of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. 

The Act’s requirements as to the rate at which leave is accrued and the reasons for which leave may be used will be of particular note to employers who already offer paid leave to their employees.  Although the Act provides that it may not be construed to require an employer to modify an existing paid leave policy, such pre-existing policies will only be given deference if they permit employees to accrue and use leave on terms that are at least equivalent to those set forth in the Act. 

The above description provides a summary of the Act’s main provisions.  In taking steps to comply with the Act, employers are wise to consult with their legal counsel, as the Act contains a host of provisions that modify or eliminate the Act’s general requirements with respect to certain industries and certain groups of employees.  The Act also imposes an obligation on employers to provide notice to their employees regarding the terms of the Act, along with recordkeeping requirements relating to the accrual and use of leave. 

The enactment of the Healthy Working Families Act makes Maryland one of fewer than ten states to have enacted mandatory paid leave on a statewide basis.  The Act does contain a provision prohibiting local jurisdictions from enacting their own paid leave ordinances.  The Act, however, provides that Montgomery County’s paid leave ordinance shall not be affected by the passage of the new legislation.