October 5, 2022
Marie J. Ignozzi
Effective Saturday, October 1, several new laws went into effect in Maryland and Washington D.C. Here are a few that impact roadway safety, non-compete agreements, harassment, and paid leave.
In Maryland, all children’s car seats must now be installed rear-facing until the child is at least two years of age, unless the child meets or exceeds specific height and weight guidelines on the seat. This change in Maryland’s car seat law was designed to correspond with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s recommendation that children sit rear-facing for as long as possible as it is the safest position if involved in an accident.
Also new in Maryland is the expansion of the “Move Over Law” to require a car to change lanes when approaching any stopped, standing, or parked vehicle that has warning signals engaged including hazard lights, road flares, or any other caution sign or device. Governor Hogan declared October “Move Over Awareness Month” with the goal of reaching zero deaths or serious injuries on roadways. The Move Over law previously required cars to change lanes only when police or emergency response vehicles had pulled over on the side to assist another vehicle or address a possible moving violation.
In Washington D.C., new parents will be excited to know that the Universal Paid Leave Emergency Amendment went into effect at the beginning of October, expanding Washington’s Paid Family Leave program. Employees in the District can now receive 12 weeks of parental, family, and medical leave. Previously, parental leave was 8 weeks, and family and medical leave were only 6 weeks. This legislation also eliminates the waiting period for employees to receive payments. Employers should promptly update their leave policies to become compliant with this new law.
Also in Washington, D.C., the legislature passed the Non-Compete Clarification Amendment that restricts employers from entering into non-compete agreements with employees who earn less than $150,000 annually and from physicians earning less than $250,000. Also part of this law is the requirement for an employer to give the employee 14 days of notice of a proposed non-compete clause before employment would begin. This law takes effect for all non-compete agreements signed on or after October 1, 2022 and is not retroactive so that it will not restrict employers from enforcing existing non-compete agreements that pre-date this change. However, employers should seek legal advice from counsel to ensure that their non-compete agreements are in compliance with these new restrictions.
For businesses, however, there are several other laws that came into effect on October 1, one of which relates to harassment and sexual harassment. Senate Bill 450 lowers the standard for individuals to prove harassment and sexual harassment under Maryland law. First, the definition of “harassment” has been changed to unwelcome and offensive conduct, which need not be severe or pervasive, when (1) the conduct is based on a protected class (e.g., race, color, religion, ancestry or national origin, sex, age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability) and (2):
i. submission to the conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of employment of an individual;
ii. submission to or rejection of the conduct is used as a basis for employment decisions affecting the individual; or
iii. the conduct unreasonably creates a working environment that a reasonable person would perceive to be abusive or hostile taking into account the totality of the circumstances.
Previously, Maryland law adopted Title VII of the Civil Rights Act’s standard of harassment– that is, unwelcome conduct based on a protected class and that either (a) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment or(b) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive. By eliminating the “severe and pervasive” requirement, Maryland law makes it easier for employees to prove that they were subjected to harassment.
The new law’s definition for sexual harassment is similar and also rejects the “severe and pervasive standard.”
For purposes of this law, “employer” generally means any person, partnership, firm, association, corporation, or other entity that is engaged in an industry or business and has 15 or more employees for each working day in each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the current orp receding calendar year; or, if an employee has filed a complaint alleging harassment, has one or more employees for each working day in each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year. The definition of employee includes an individual working as an independent contractor for an employer.
Now would be a good time to revise any employment handbooks or policies to incorporate the new harassment definitions. Please feel free to contact any of our lawyers to discuss the new law and possible changes to your human resources materials.