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Montgomery County, Maryland Becomes Latest Jurisdiction to Embrace Paid Sick Leave

On July 2, 2015, Montgomery County, Maryland became the most recent jurisdiction to sign a paid sick leave law onto the books. County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) signed Bill 60-14 into law after the County Council unanimously approved the legislation on June 23, 2015. The law takes effect on October 1, 2016.

Under the new law, covered employees will be able to accrue one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 56 hours per year. The law applies to all employers in Montgomery County; however, employers with fewer than five workers in the County will not be required to offer more than 32 hours, or four days, of paid sick leave in a calendar year. The law further does not apply to any employee who works fewer than 8 hours a week, is employed by a temporary placement agency, or does not have a regular work schedule with the employer. The employee’s sick leave begins to accrue from the first day of employment, but an employer may limit the use of the accrued sick days until an employee has been employed for more than 90 days. The paid sick leave is calculated on the employee’s normal earnings and a tipped employee must be paid the County minimum wage.

The law permits employees to apply their leave towards an injury or illness for themselves or an immediate family member. Immediate family includes the employee’s spouse or any child that the employee has legal or physical custody of or for whom the employee is the primary caregiver. It also includes a biological, adoptive, foster, or stepparent of the employee or of the employee’s spouse, a grandparent of the employee or spouse, and the sibling of an employee or spouse. The law further covers care for “an individual who served as the primary caregiver of the employee when the employee was a minor.”

Unless an employer awards the full amount of earned sick leave at the beginning of the calendar year (regardless of how much the employee works) an employer must permit an employee to carry over the paid sick leave to the next calendar year, up to 56 hours. However, an employer is not required to compensate the employee for unused days upon the employee’s departure. If the employee begins working outside Montgomery County for the same employer, the employer must permit the employee to use the earned leave that he or she accrued while working for the employer in the County. And, if an employee leaves but is rehired by an employer within 9 months after leaving the employment, the employer must reinstate any unused earned sick leave that the employee had when the employee left the job, except when that employee voluntarily leaves the workplace without good cause as defined by the Maryland Code.

To use an earned sick day, an employee must request leave from the employer as soon as practicable after the employee determines that he or she needs to take leave. The employee must: (1) notify the employer of the anticipated duration of the leave; and (2) comply with any reasonable procedures (such as text or email requirements) established by the employer. An employee is not required to find an individual to cover for them when taking sick leave. An employer must keep records of all sick days accrued and used by its employees for 3 years.

Further, the law provides that any person subjected to retaliation or discrimination for exercising their right to use sick days may file a Complaint with the Director of the Human Rights Commission for Montgomery County (the “Director”). The law does not provide for a private cause of action in a court of law.

Last, the law requires that employers provide notice to employees that they are entitled to earn leave. The notice must include: (1) a statement of how earned leave is accrued; (2) the permitted uses of earned leave under the law; (3) a statement that the employer may not retaliate against an employee for taking leave; and (4) information about the employee’s right to file a complaint with the Director. The law also charges the Director with creating a model notice for employees to use. That model notice will satisfy the act as long as the employer displays the model notice in a conspicuous and accessible area of the work location, includes the model notice in an employee handbook distributed to all employees, or distributes the notice to an employee upon hire.


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