A recent amendment to Maryland law, effective October 1st, 2013 requires that employers with 15 or more employees provide reasonable accommodation to employees with a disability caused or contributed to by pregnancy. Under the amendment, if an employee requests an accommodation for a disability, including one related to pregnancy, the employer must explore all possible means of providing the reasonable accommodation including:
1. changing the employee’s job duties;
2. changing the employee’s work hours;
3. relocating the employee’s work area;
4. providing mechanical or electrical aids;
5. transferring the employee to a less strenuous or less hazardous position; or providing leave.
The amendment provides particularly explicit guidelines for employers to determine whether they must transfer the employee as part of the employee’s request for reasonable accommodations. Among other things, the employer must grant the pregnant employee’s request for a transfer if “the employer has a policy, practice, or collective bargaining agreement requiring or authorizing the transfer of a temporarily disabled employee to a less strenuous or less hazardous position for the duration of the disability.”
In addition to setting forth additional accommodation requirements for employers, the amendment requires employers to post in a conspicuous location, and include in any employee handbook, information concerning an employee’s rights to reasonable accommodations and leave for a disability caused or contributed to by pregnancy. Maryland employers with 15 or more employees should contact legal counsel to determine whether their posters and handbooks comply with the new law.
Effective October 1, 2013, Maryland employers that employ at least 50 employees must provide one day of unpaid leave to employees for use in connection with the employee’s immediate family member in the armed forces leaving for or returning from active military duty outside of the United States. Immediate family member is defined to include the employee’s spouse, parent / step-parent, child / step-child, and sibling. To be eligible for this leave, an employee must have worked for the covered employer at least 1,250 hours on a full-time or part-time basis during the preceding 12 months. Employers may not require employees to use paid leave for this day of leave. Maryland employers should review their leave policies and train their supervisors and managers accordingly.
In light of the government shutdown, employers with ties to the government, including nonprofits and those with government contracts, may need to make changes to their workforce. Caution is urged, however, as these changes may have unexpected legal repercussions. For example, you risk losing FLSA exempt status (and thus incurring an overtime obligation for work in prior years) if an exempt employee is directed to take involuntary leave without pay for a period of less than a full week. As another example, if furloughs or layoffs are applied to a disparate number of employees in a protected category, employers could face allegations of discrimination. Employers contemplating required leave or layoffs should contact legal counsel to minimize the risk of violating applicable laws.
Former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, who was accused of sexual harassment by multiple women, recently asked the city to pay all legal costs he incurs to defend against these claims. He asserts that the city is responsible because it did not provide sexual harassment training to management-level employees including himself within six months of employment, as allegedly required by California law. While the outcome remains to be seen, this should serve as another reminder for employers to provide sexual harassment training to employees.
The contents of this Alert are for informational purposes only, and do not constitute legal advice. If you have any questions about this Alert, please contact a member of the Shulman Rogers Employment and Labor Law Group or the Shulman Rogers attorney with whom you regularly work.
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