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Legal Alert

Maryland Employers Should Use This Summer To Prepare For Sweeping New Workplace Laws

7.15.20

Maryland employers face a broad array of new workplace rules set to take effect on October 1, 2020. The new legislation will add protected characteristics to Maryland’s anti-discrimination law, create new mandatory advance notice requirements in cases of mass layoffs, install new obligations and protections related to employee salaries and related inquiries, and prohibit non-consensual use of facial recognition services during the hiring process. October 1 will be here before you know it – what do you need to do this summer to prepare for these new obligations?

Expansion Of Anti-Discrimination Law To Include Hairstyles

Maryland will become the seventh state to prohibit discrimination on the basis of hairstyles associated with race, joining neighboring Virginia, as well as California, Colorado, New Jersey, New York, Washington, and the District of Columbia, in enacting its own version of what is commonly known as the “CROWN Act.” The General Assembly amended the definition of “race” in the state anti-discrimination law to clarify that the term encompasses “traits associated with race, including hair texture, afro hairstyles, and protective hairstyles,” the latter of which is defined to include “braids, twists, and locks.”

Employer Action Steps:

New Mass Layoff Procedures 

The General Assembly also amended Maryland’s Economic Stabilization Act, known as a mini-WARN law, which will affect certain employee separation practices. Like the federal Workers Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, Maryland’s mini-WARN law provides for 60 days’ advance written notification of a mass layoff. Previously, notice requirements for Maryland employers under the mini-WARN law had been voluntary. As amended, the notice requirements are now mandatory for covered employers.

Employer Action Steps:

Salary History Ban And Salary Inquiry Protections

The General Assembly also amended Maryland’s Equal Pay Act to address the gender wage gap that may stem from an applicant’s salary history. The amendments create several new employer obligations and add applicant and employee protections relating to salaries, salary inquiries, and salary histories, including the following:

However, the new legislation clarifies that an applicant may voluntarily provide their wage history and permits employers to confirm and rely on such history to support a wage offer higher than initially offered. However, this is only permitted as long as the higher wage does not create an unlawful pay differential based on sex or gender identity.

The General Assembly also amended the Maryland Equal Pay Act to prohibit an employer from taking any adverse employment action against an employee for asking about their own wages. Prior to the amendment, the act made it unlawful to take adverse action only in response to inquiries about another employee’s wages.

Employer Action Steps:

Prohibition On Using Facial Recognition In The Hiring Process

Finally, the General Assembly enacted legislation to prohibit employers from using a facial recognition service to create a facial template of applicants during job interviews without consent. The new legislation defines “facial recognition service” as any “technology that analyzes facial features and is used for recognition or persistent tracking of individuals in still or video images,” and defines “facial template” to mean “machine-interpretable pattern of facial features that is extracted from one or more images of an individual by a facial recognition service.” 

Employer Action Steps:

Conclusion

We will continue to monitor developments related to these new laws and their effect on Maryland employers. Make sure you are subscribed to Fisher Phillips’ Alert System to get the most up-to-date information. For further information, contact your Fisher Phillips attorney or any attorney in our Bethesda office.


This Legal Alert provides an overview of a specific state law. It is not intended to be, and should not be construed as, legal advice for any particular fact situation

 

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