Montgomery County Employers Must Provide Paid Sick and Safe Leave Effective October 1, 2016
Effective October 1, 2016, all employers in Montgomery County, Maryland with one or more employees are required to provide employees with paid sick and safe leave. All employees must earn one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours an employee works in Montgomery County, up to 56 hours a year. Employers with 5 or more employees must provide paid sick and safe leave; whereas, employers with less than 5 employees must provide 32 hours of paid sick and safe leave, as well as 24 hours of unpaid sick and safe leave per year.
The new law covers all employees except: individuals who do not have a regular work schedule with the employer; individuals who contact the employer for work assignments and are scheduled within 48 hours; individuals who have no obligation to work for the employer unless they initiate contact; individuals not employed by a temporary placement agency; individuals who regularly work 8 hours or less each week; or an individual who is an independent contractor.
An employer has the choice to provide sick and safe leave as it accrues throughout the year or award it all at the beginning of the year. If an employer uses an accrual method for sick and safe leave, an employer must allow the employee to carryover up to 56 hours of the leave to the next year.
Although sick and safe leave starts to accrue at the time of hire, employers may prohibit use of sick leave until an employee has completed the employer’s 90 day probationary or introductory period.
Likewise, an employer is not required to pay out accrued but unused sick and safe leave at the time of termination; however, an employer may be required to reinstate accrued but unused sick and safe leave if an employee is reinstated within 9 months, unless the employee is determined not eligible for unemployment benefits because the employee voluntarily left without good cause.
It is important to note that the sick and safe leave can be used for reasons other than the employee’s own illness. The uses include:
- To care for the employee’s or a family member’s mental or physical condition
- To care for a family members who presents a risk to the community because of exposure to a communicable disease
- To allow the employee or a family member to obtain preventative medical care
- If the place of business is closed due to a public health emergency
- If the school or childcare center of a family member is closed due to a public health emergency
- To seek any medical attention, legal services or any services provided by victim’s organizations or to temporarily relocate due to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking
Under the new law, a family member is defined as a biological, adopted, foster, stepchild or grandchild of the employee; a child that the employee has legal or physical custody of or is the primary caregiver; a biological, adoptive, foster or step parent of the employee or the employee’s spouse; legal guardian of the employee who has been the primary caregiver of the employee when he/she was a minor; a spouse; a grandparent or the spouse of a grandparent of the employee; and a biological, adopted or foster sibling or spouse of a sibling of the employee.
If an employer’s policies currently provide employees 56 or more hours of vacation or paid time off, the only change an employer may need to make is to ensure their policies state the uses set forth above for sick and safe leave. Please note an employer is not required to allow an employee to use more than 80 hours of sick and safe leave in a year, and may request documentation if an employee is out for more than 3 consecutive days.
All employers should be mindful that the new law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who exercise their sick and safe leave rights. In addition, all employers must keep records of sick and safe leave accrued and used by employees for at least 3 years. Lastly, employers must provide notice of this new law to all employees. Sample notices can be found on the County’s website at http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/humanrights/index.html.
Employers are encouraged to review their current policies to make sure they are in compliance with this new law, as well as consult with legal counsel should they have any questions.