Employment Law

As an employer, it can be complicated to understand and comply with all of the Federal, State and county employment laws on the books.   As a cannabis entrepreneur who founded Green Leaf Medical ad a law firm,  and who oversaw a Human Resources Department and over 300 employees, Kevin Goldberg understands these challenges and can help companies manage employee misconduct situations and terminations as they arise; so as to minimize the headaches, expenses and consequences to the Employer.    Goldberg works with employment lawyers and consultants who can help your company write employee handbooks, corporate policies, job descriptions and other documents that can help protect your company in the event an employee pursues a legal claim.     Employers need to understand that there are Federal laws and regulations governing employment and also State and Local laws and regulations that must be complied with.      

Some important basics of Maryland employment law are set forth below:

  • Minimum Wage.   Maryland’s minimum wage is $13.25 per hour and it is scheduled to increase to $15.00 per hour in January 2024.    The exception is that companies with 14 or fewer employees in which case the minimum wage is $12,80 per hour now, but even that is scheduled to increase to $15 per hour on 1/1/2024.   Certain counties may have slightly higher minimum wages.   For example the minimum wage in Montgomery County, MD is $16.70 for employers with more than 50 employees and $15.00 per hour  for fewer than 50 employees but more than 9.    The Montgomery County minimum wage is $14.50 per hour for  employers with 10 or less employees.  (This is a moving target, and changes generally occur annually). Tipped employees in Montgomery County Maryland must still earn the minimum wage per hour, and even so, employers must pay at least $4 per hour.
  • Overtime:   It is critical that employers abide by the Fair Labor Standards Act which is a federal law regulating overtime pay.    An employer who does not pay overtime as required by law can be sued in a class action lawsuit for violating the law, and will likely have to pay the other side’s attorney fees as well as statutory damages.   In Maryland, generally speaking, most employees must be paid 1.5 times their usual hourly rate for work over 40 hours per week.   There is a narrow exception for agricultural workers who can work 60 hours per week before overtime kicks in.   There are exemptions to the Overtime law which can be confusing and complicated.    Consult with a lawyer to see if your overtime practices are appropriate.
  • Disabilities.   Maryland employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to employees unless providing the accommodation would cause the employer an undue hardship on the conduct of business.   Employers must engage in an interactive dialogue with employees requesting an accommodation.   This law was recently extended to job applicants.    Employers should review their hiring practices to be sure that accommodations are made for applicants with disabilities where appropriate.     
  • Insurance.    Employment laws are complicated, and despite best efforts and good intentions employers can be sued in both individual cases and in class action lawsuits.    Employers should obtain Employment Practices Liability Insurance.   An attorney can review coverages and assess whether an employer has adequate insurance coverage. 
  • Leave Requests and Family Medical Leave Act.   Generally speaking the Federal Family Medical Leave Act entitles employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons.   To be eligible, an employee needs to have worked for the employer for 12 months, 1,250 hours over previous 12 months,  and work at a location where at least 50 employees are employed within 75 miles.   Federal leave can be taken for birth of a child and need to care for child within 12 months of birth, placement of an adopted child or foster child, care for a spouse, child or parent with a serious health condition, or if the employee has a serious health condition. Employees are required to give 30 days notice if the leave is foreseeable. Maryland also has a Parental Leave Act that requires employers with 15-49 employees to provide 6 work weeks of unpaid parental leave benefits during any 12 month period for birth of child, adoption or foster placement.      In 2022 Maryland passed the Time to Carre Act in Maryland creating a family and medical leave insurance program. This program may provide certain employees taking FMLA leave with partial wage replacement (max weekly benefit of $1,000).  Employers should consult with a lawyer to determine whether it makes sense to participate in a paid leave program. It should also be noted that in Maryland employees can take leave on the day an immediate family member leaves or returns from active military duty outside the USA.
  • Sexual Harassment and Race Discrimination  Claims.     Employers should have a policy in place for accepting and investigating claims of sexual harassment and discrimination claims.   Maryland law is that unwelcome and offensive conduct based on race, color, religion,  ancestry, national origin, sex, age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability is unlawful.    The conduct no longer needs to be “severe and pervasive” as the law just requires that the totality of the circumstances the conduct unreasonably creates a working environment a reasonable person would perceive to be abusive or hostile.  This new 2022 law made it easier for employees to prove a sexual harassment or discrimination claim, and employers should therefore make sure that they have appropriate policies and procedures in place.  Sexual Harassment and Discrimination training is highly recommended to Maryland employers as per EEOC guidelines. 
  • Employment of Minors.    It is the general policy in Maryland to encourage the development of minors by allowing them to engage in occupations that prepare them for responsible citizenship yet to protect them from occupations that will be injurious to their mental, moral or physical welfare.  Generally speaking children under age 14 cannot be employed in Maryland.  Employers need to have a work permit to employ a minor over age 14. Children under 16 cannot work before 7 am, after 8pm during the school year, after 9 pm during the summer vacation.  Those under 16 can only work 4 hours a day when school is in session, 8 hours a day when school is not in session, 23 hours per week when school is in session, 40 hours a week when school is not in session.   The Commissioner of the Department of Labor can provide exceptions to these restrictions if it is determined that there will be no hazard to health or welfare of the minor and granting the exception will not impede minor fulfilling school graduation requirements.    Minors are prohibited in working in certain industries including blast furnaces, distillerys where alcohol is packaged, railroads, docks/wharfs other than a marina for pleasure vessels, and cannot work in the field of cleaning oiling or wiping of machinery.  Employers who violate these laws can be charged with a misdemeanor and on conviction subject to a fine of up too $10,000 and imprisonment for 90 days.