As expected, Maryland delegates and senators are beginning to present bills that effect how employers in the state of Maryland operate. As of today, here are several of those bills that have the potential to adversely affect business.
HB 401 - Equal Pay for Equal Work – Revisions
This bill will create a commission to study, analyze and then recommend legislation/regulations to address pay disparities between men and women, and minorities and non-minorities. A very laudable endeavor! However, a couple little provisions were slipped into this bill that don’t make a great deal of sense to me as to how they will do anything to address any current or future unfair pay disparities.
It would require an employer to include in a job advertisement/posting the minimum rate of pay; whether pay is hourly, daily, weekly, piece, salary, etc.; if the position is eligible for overtime; and whether any allowances (tip credit, meals, etc.) are included. It would also prohibit the employer from seeking salary history information without the written consent of the applicant; and prohibits employers from giving the salary history of current or former employees without written consent. It’s not clear if it would prevent an employer from asking an applicant during an initial phone screen about salary history without first getting written consent, but it doesn’t really clarify that, either. A rather serious inclusion to this bill is individual liability for violations (a supervisor, HR representative, etc., could be held individually liable in addition to the company).
SB 481 - Labor and Employment - Equal Pay for Equal Work
SB 481 would add gender identity to state wage discrimination laws. It would also prohibit businesses from attempts to prevent the discussion of wages by and among employees or adverse action for discussing same.
Both state and federal laws (Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the ADEA, and the ADA) prevent such wage discrimination and other than adding gender identity, this bill does not increase protections under existing laws. In addition, preventing discussion of wages is already prohibited under the NLRA.
This is a continuation of the "layering" of laws and regulations upon businesses, and adding additional causes of action available to employees who feel they’ve been wronged. I’m not sure how piling up the heap of similar laws actually results in more protection, or even adds to the deterrence of the actions they were meant to prohibit. The increased cost and administrative burdens to comply with multiple laws covering the same topics all contribute to a very negative business environment.
HB 580 – Maryland Healthy Working Families Act (SB0472)
This is Maryland’s version of "Sick and Safe Leave" acts that have passed in other states and localities in the last year or so. In fact, this appears to be pretty much a duplicate of Washington D.C.’s law. And it’s not pretty…..
The accrued paid leave requirement will apply to businesses with 9 or more employees; unpaid accrued leave will be required for those with less than 9 employees.
If passed, this law will have a major impact on businesses. A one-size-fits-all approach never really fits anyone.
Whenever a law adds to the cost of doing business, the money has to come from somewhere; it doesn’t just appear because we wish it to be so. The vast majority of employers in both Maryland and across the country are not huge, money-saturated operations. They are small and mid-size companies that struggle to produce and sell their products or services, realize some profits and treat their employees as well as they can.
If you operate a business in Maryland and have any number of employees, I urge you to take a look at these bills and then contact your delegates and senators and let them know how they will affect your business in particular. That is the only way our elected officials will find out how their actions affect our lives.
In other news…..back in July of last year, I wrote here about the Department of Labor’s proposal for the Fair Labor Standards Act’s exemption rules. We’ve all been waiting to find out when the final rule might be released. The DOL’s Solicitor M. Patricia Smith told attorneys at a New York State Bar Association meeting that the final rules would likely be published in July 2016. Given an effective date 60 days after the release of the final rules, employers will have to comply with the new rules by September 2016.
As I mentioned in that prior post, you need to get ready for this: