The Montgomery County Council recently passed legislation effective October 1, 2016, whereby Montgomery County, Maryland will join a growing number of jurisdictions in mandating paid sick leave for employees performing work in the county. The Earned Sick and Safe Leave Act is modeled on local paid sick leave laws in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. While mandatory paid sick leave laws have mostly been enacted on the local level, four states have guaranteed paid sick leave for certain employees, with Oregon recently joining California, Massachusetts and Connecticut. Legislation to enact mandatory paid sick leave for employers was introduced in the Maryland General Assembly in prior years but has not yet passed. Montgomery County’s Earned Sick and Safe Leave Act is extremely broad and applies to all employers in the County. The law mandates that employees accrue paid sick and safe leave at a rate of 1 hour for every 30 hours worked, up to 56 hours per year. Employers have the option of either granting the full amount that an employee would accrue at the beginning of the year or award it as accrued. Employers are required to permit employees to carry over up to 56 hours into the next calendar year. Employees also are permitted to use sick leave accrued while working in the county while working outside the county. For example, if an employee is transferred from an office in Bethesda, MD to an office in Columbia, MD or is out of state on a temporary assignment, leave earned while working in the Bethesda office may be used while the employee is working in the Columbia office, although additional leave will not accrue. Employees are permitted to use sick and safe leave for a large number of reasons, including their own mental or physical illness, to obtain preventative medical care for themselves or a family member, to care for a family member with an illness, or for absences related to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking against the employee or the employee’s family member. For the purposes of the Sick and Safe Leave Act, “family member” has an extremely broad definition and extends beyond immediate family members to include grandparents and siblings. Absences related to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking include medical attention, victim assistance services or legal services are also covered by the Act. Employees are permitted to use their sick and safe leave in increments as small as can be recorded by the employer’s timekeeping system and employers cannot require the use of increments of leave larger than one hour. As quickly becomes apparent, the Earned Sick and Safe Leave Law is extremely generous to employees. Beyond the details identified above, there are anti-retaliation and notice provisions in the Act which provide additional protections to employees. It is imperative that employers with operations and/or employees in Montgomery County familiarize themselves with this new law and plan for how it will impact their operations before it takes effect on October 1, 2016, including its posting requirements.
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