PUBLICATIONS

Maryland is the Latest State to Pass Paid Family and Medical Leave

Date   Apr 21, 2022

Executive Summary: On April 9, 2022, Maryland joined nine other states in providing some form of paid family and medical leave covering private employers. After the Time to Care Act 2022, SB 275, (the “Act”) passed both houses of the General Assembly by a supermajority vote, it was vetoed by Governor Larry Hogan. A day later, the General Assembly overrode the Governor’s veto. While most of the Act goes into effect on June 1, 2022, employees may not apply for leave benefits under the program until 2025.

The new Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FAMLI) program will provide up to 12 weeks of paid benefits to covered individuals taking leave from employment due to specified personal and family circumstances. The FAMLI program will be funded by both employer and employee tax contributions beginning in 2023.

Background:

The United States remains the only developed country without a nationwide paid family leave law. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), passed in 1993, provides for 12 weeks of unpaid protected leave for employers with 50 or more employees. In recent years, several states and local jurisdictions have sought to expand paid leave protections for employees and to cover smaller employers. Despite various attempts throughout the years, Maryland’s General Assembly had previously failed to pass paid family and medical leave.

Under the new law, the FAMLI program will be funded by both employee and employer contributions, which begin on October 1, 2023. While employers who employ at least one employee must participate in the program, only employers employing at least 15 employees must contribute to the fund.

Employees who have worked at least 680 hours over a 12-month period immediately preceding their leave usage are “covered individuals” and eligible to take FAMLI leave. Covered individuals will receive a weekly benefit, subject to a cap, which is based on the individual’s average weekly wage.

Under the Act, covered individuals will ordinarily be entitled to a total of 12 weeks of paid leave per year. The circumstances for FAMLI leave usage are:

  1. To care for a child during the first year after the child’s birth or after the placement of the child through foster care, kinship care, or adoption;
  2. To care for a family member with a serious health condition;
  3. Because the covered individual has a serious health condition that results in the covered individual being unable to perform the functions of the covered individual’s position;
  4. To care for a service member who is the covered individual’s next of kin; or
  5. Because the covered individual has a qualifying exigency arising out of the deployment of a service member who is a family member of the covered individual.

Covered individuals are able to take continuous or intermittent FAMLI leave, but intermittent leave may not be taken in increments of less than four hours. As with federal FMLA leave, FAMLI leave is job-protected, meaning that employers must restore an employee to an equivalent position upon completion of leave.

The law requires the Maryland Secretary of Labor (the “Secretary”) to adopt regulations to administer the leave program by June 1, 2023. The Secretary will set the rates of employer and employee contributions to fund the program and is empowered to investigate and bring civil actions for violations of the Act.

Employer Considerations:

Maryland has made several significant changes to its employment leave laws in the last few General Assembly sessions. Maryland now joins a growing number of states and local jurisdictions offering paid family and medical leave, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington.

Employers should contact their employment counsel to ensure they are prepared for this new leave benefit. Some Maryland employers, who had previously not been subject to the FMLA, will now be required to provide 12 weeks of job- protected leave for the first time.

Employers should train their human resources departments and managers on this new benefit as soon as possible. Beginning in less than two months, on June 1, 2022, employers are required to provide written notice of employees’ rights under the FAMLI program at the time of hire and annually thereafter.

If you have any questions related to Maryland’s new paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance program, or any other employment-related issues, please contact the authors of this Alert, Anessa Abrams, partner in FordHarrison’s Washington, D.C. office at aabrams@fordharrison.com, and  James Handley, a senior associate in our Washington, D.C. office, at jhandley@fordharrison.com. Of course, you can also contact the FordHarrison attorney with whom you usually work.