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Home $ Employment Law $ The Maryland Healthy Working Families Act, part 2

In part 1 of this post, we introduced Maryland’s law that gives most employees in the state the right to accrue time off for sick and safe leave.

What is sick leave?

The employee may take earned sick leave time for:

  • Medical treatment
  • Preventive medical care for self or family member
  • Caring for an ill or injured family member
  • Maternity or paternity leave

For these and other purposes under the Act, “family member” is broadly defined and quite inclusive.

What is safe leave?

Safe time allows an employee to take time off to address issues of domestic violence, abuse, sexual assault or stalking of self or a family member:

  • Get related medical or mental health care
  • Access victim services
  • Obtain legal services or attend related proceedings
  • Temporary relocation of employee

Types of workers not covered by the Act

The definition of “employee” under the Act has some exceptions. For example, some in these categories are not eligible for sick and safe leave benefits:

  • Independent contractors
  • Real estate brokers on commission
  • Employees under 18 on the first day of the working year
  • Agricultural workers
  • Certain employees of temporary services agencies
  • Employment agency employees who work part-time or temporarily for another party
  • Certain construction workers
  • Certain as-needed employees in the health or human services industries

Enforcement and legal remedies

An employer may not take negative action against or interfere with any employee who exercises their rights under the Act.

An employee may file a complaint that their employer has violated the Act with the Maryland Commissioner of Labor and Industry. The Commissioner has 90 days to investigate the allegations and resolve the dispute using mediation.

If this is not successful and the Commissioner finds the employer has violated the Act, the Commissioner must issue an order describing the violation and directing payment of the value of any unpaid sick and safe leave and any “actual economic damages.”

In addition, the Commission has the discretion to order the employer to pay up to three times the employee’s hourly wage for each violation of the Act and/or issue a penalty on the employer of up to $1,000 per employee for whom the employer is out of compliance.

The employer has 30 days to comply with the Commissioner’s order. If it does not, these options kick in:

  • The Commissioner may request the Maryland Attorney General file a lawsuit on behalf of the employee.
  • The Commissioner may file a lawsuit to enforce the civil penalty
  • The employee may sue the employer to enforce the Commissioner’s order.

In an employee suit, the court has discretion to award substantial money damages, including punitive damages, plus attorneys’ fees, court costs, injunctive relief (a court order that a party do something) and other appropriate relief.

Finally, the Act establishes a misdemeanor if an employee in bad faith files a complaint or a lawsuit or testifies in such a lawsuit. Conviction can result in a fine of up to $1,000.

Any employee with questions about their rights to sick and safe time under Maryland state law should speak with an experienced employment lawyer.