Employment law is so broad, covering several issues that may occur in and out of the workplace. There are quite a number of federal, state, and local laws that protect employees working in the State of Maryland, and most of these laws are enforced by specific government agencies. Common laws established by the courts are, however, enforced by the state courts.
Maryland employment laws protect employees against workplace discrimination and harassment, poor and unsafe working conditions, as well as violation of their right to representation in the workplace, family leave, etc. These laws also advocate for workers’ compensations for lost wages, medical costs, and permanent injuries. We’ve rounded up some employment laws in Maryland that you should be aware of.
Federal Employment Laws
At the federal level, employee rights are protected by the following comprehensive acts:
- The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA): This law ensures employers pay the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and overtime to non-exempt employees. However, the state of Maryland has its minimum wage threshold of $11.75, which applies to employers with more than 15 employees.
- The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA): The act sets industry-specific regulations that pertain to workplace safety and wellbeing. For instance, the law requires certain companies and businesses to provide employees with personal protective equipment and compliance training. The act also allows employees injured while in service, despite the safety precautions, the right to be compensated.
- The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): This federal law requires employers with 50 plus employees to provide job-protected leave to eligible workers for up to 12 weeks. Employees can only qualify for this leave for family or medical reasons. For instance, after welcoming a newborn/adopting a child or caring for a family member suffering from a life-threatening condition.
- Workplace Discrimination and Harassment laws: Several federal laws govern workplace discrimination and harassment. These laws prohibit discrimination based on protected classes, such as age, race, color, sex, religion, national origin, etc. Examples of these laws include the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which protects employees or candidates above 40 years from discrimination. Others include the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination based on medical/genetic information and disability status, respectively.
As far as state employment laws are concerned, Maryland has two specific regulations that are stricter and broader than the federal laws. They are:
- Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act: This law, which is more comprehensive than the federal Civil Rights Act, outlaws workplace discrimination based on color, race, sex, religion, age, marital status, national origin, sexual orientation, etc. Under this law, independent contractors are protected against discrimination, and victims of sexual harassment have access to a broader definition of harassment. This law also applies to all employers, even a small business with only one employee.
- Maryland Healthy Working Families Act: This is a state law that allows employees to go on a paid sick and job-protected leave. However, this law applies to employers with 15 or more employees.
Contract Rights and Other Laws
Besides the above federal and state laws, several other laws protect employees from unlawful termination of a job or contract. At-will employment doctrine is a law that allows employers to hire and fire employees at any time and for any reason – or, for no reason at all – without notice or cause and as the employer sees fit.
Over the years, there have been several amendments to this doctrine to limit or restrict the provisions stated under the employment-at-will doctrine. Some of these amendments have been passed into law and are interpreted as “exceptions to employment-at-will.” Termination of employment is not the only thing an employer can legally do under the doctrine. Other provisions include reducing wages, limiting working hours, and changing employee-benefits coverage.
Some of the exceptions to employment-at-will include:
- Collective bargaining agreements: Workers covered by union agreements or associations have contractual provisions stipulating how and when they can be fired.
- Individual employment contracts: specific employees in some industries have employment contracts, which outline the terms and conditions for discharge. If the due process isn’t followed, the employee can sue the employer for wrongful termination.
- Company policies: Some companies have guidelines that define the due procedures that must be followed before an employee is fired. For instance, giving warnings to employees at risk of termination.
Memorizing all the above laws is hectic and somewhat impractical, meaning you’ll need regular advice from your attorney. Whether you are an employee whose rights have been violated or an employer trying to understand the legal employment landscape, working with the best employment lawyers will save you a lot of time, money, and resources. Remember, you want to work with an employment lawyer who is not only familiar with federal and state laws but also the local government and common laws.