This act is a sweeping new law that provides several protections for employees who need to take sick leave.
The new law applies to all employers. Every business in Maryland now must provide sick leave. If a business has less that 15 employees, they have to provide unpaid sick leave. If they have more than 15 employees, they have to provide paid sick leave.
What Can I Use Sick Leave For?
Sick leave under the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act is not just for being sick. It also covers maternity and paternity leave. The law also requires “safe” leave for those suffering from domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. It may be used for medical care, mental health, seeking help from victim services organizations, seeking legal services or engaging in legal proceedings, and time to temporarily relocate.
This leave is not just for you either. It can be used for either you or a family member. Family member is very broadly defined. It includes biological, foster, step or adopted family. It includes children, parents, in-laws, grandparents, grandchildren, and siblings.
How Do I Accrue Sick Leave?
You must accrue leave while you work. You must accrue at least 1 hour of leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 40 hours per year. Employees can carry over at least 40 hours per year. There are some limits. Employers can cap your leave at 40 hours per year, or a total of 64 hours regardless of time period. You must work 12 hours per week to accrue anything.
What Are The Limits?
There are some limits to using your Healthy Working Families Act leave. The business may require you to request this leave in advance, if the leave is foreseeable, but no more than 7 days in advance. For unforeseeable leave, you must provide notice as soon as practical. Your employer may require verification that the leave was actually used for the purposes set forth in the law. Your job does have to provide written notice of your entitlement to this leave.
One more interesting limit – your employer is not required to pay you this leave if you leave your job or get fired. It is not like traditional vacation leave that is yours when accrued.
Your boss cannot retaliate against you for using this leave. If you claim a violation, you can file a complaint with the Commissioner of the Department of Labor & Licensing & Regulation (DLLR). They will investigate and resolve complaints. It seems the law is set up to make the DLLR the body that enforces this law. You can file a civil suit to enforce those decisions if your employer doesn’t honor them. In that case, you may get up to three times the value of your unpaid leave, punitive damages, attorney’s fees and costs.
All in all, this is a major piece of legislation that gives Maryland workers a bunch of rights they may not have had before now. You need to be aware of this, and be able to tell your boss about it. This law is so new that I seriously doubt most businesses are ready for it!