House Bill 1284 (HB 1284), called the Organ Donation Leave Law, which went into effect October 1, 2019, now requires many private employers in Maryland to provide employees with unpaid leave for donating organ or bone marrow. Under the Organ Donation Leave Law, employers with at least 15 employees working in Maryland are required to provide eligible employees with up to 60 business days of unpaid leave to serve as an organ donor, and up to 30 business days of unpaid leave to serve as a bone marrow donor. Employees must have worked for at least 12 months and for at least 1,250 hours during the previous 12 months in order to be eligible.
The Organ Donation Leave Law could have a tremendous positive impact on encouraging many more Maryland employees to donate organs or bone marrow. Importantly, the new law specifies that this is job-protected leave, meaning that employees have to be returned to either the same position or an equivalent position upon their return from taking organ/bone marrow leave. The time employees take off for this leave also cannot be counted as a break in service for purposes of calculating vacation, sick leave, seniority, etc., all of which should encourage interested employees to donate. Some speculate that this will have minimal impact on the business community. The leave is unpaid, meaning that employers should experience minimal fiscal impact. Organ and bone marrow donation are not frequent events so it is not expected that many employers in Maryland will be impacted.
Other Maryland business owners speculate that this new law could have a greater fiscal impact than anticipated. Since the new law does not specify that employees taking organ/bone marrow leave are required to give their employers any advance notice of their intent to take leave, employers could be left hamstrung by a lack of key personnel. In addition, the purpose of the law is to significantly increase the number of organ/bone marrow donors in the state so, if the bill has its intended effect, many more businesses could be impacted by this new leave law than anticipated. Finally, Maryland is often criticized as being “not open for business.” For example, Maryland already has a sick leave law in place, a higher minimum wage than the Federal minimum wage, and many local jurisdictions (like Montgomery County, MD) provide even more benefits to employees at the expense of small business owners. There is always the risk that this new law will be seen as just one more reason why new businesses should consider opening up in Virginia (which does not have a similar organ/bone marrow leave law for private employers) instead of Maryland.
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 the Shulman Rogers attorney with whom you regularly work or a member of the Shulman Rogers Employment and Labor Law Group.
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