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- 2021 Maryland Law Updates – read now
2021 Maryland Law Updates
by Don Walsh
Updates to Maryland Family Law
Chapters 383 and 384 of 2020 made numerous changes to statutory provisions regarding child support obligations which will become effective in July, 2022, including (1) revising the schedule of basic child support obligations used to calculate child support amounts under the State’s child support guidelines; (2) establishing circumstances under which a court is authorized to decline to establish a child support obligation; and (3) requiring a court to take specified actions if there is a dispute as to whether a parent is “voluntarily impoverished.” The changes will have prospective application only. DHS previously anticipated that a new child support management system would be available in advance of this effective date and that necessary computer programming to reflect the 2020 legislation could be incorporated into the scheduled implementation of the new system. However, because of unanticipated delays with implementation, DHS will need to incorporate its changes into both the new system and the existing child support system and will incur expenses to do so.
Beware of the annoyed ex-spouse. House Bill 804 (passed) establishes a whistleblower reward program administered by the Comptroller’s Office. A whistleblower who voluntarily provides original information to the Comptroller in a sworn affidavit that results in a final assessment in a covered enforcement action, or a successful outcome against a taxpayer in a related action, is entitled to receive a monetary award of at least 15%, but not more than 30%, of the taxes, penalties, and interest collected through the enforcement action or related action. The bill also provides protections against retaliation against a whistleblower and establishes rules regarding disclosure of the whistleblower’s identity. Lastly, the bill extends from 7 to 10 years the statute of limitations for tax collections and applies the extension retroactively to any assessment or collection, which is not barred before October 1, 2021.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic impacts, the General Assembly considered a number of measures to provide relief to residential tenants. House Bill 18 (passed), among other things, establishes access to counsel for individuals meeting certain qualifications in specified eviction and housing subsidy proceedings and modifies the procedures relating to failure-to-pay rent actions. The bill requires that, before a landlord may file a complaint for failure to pay rent, the landlord must provide the tenant with written notice of the landlord’s intent to file a claim in the District Court to recover possession of the residential premises if the tenant does not cure the unpaid rent within 10 days after the notice was provided to the tenant.
Senate Bill 401 (passed) alters statutory provisions that specify the amount of time prior to the expiration of a tenancy (lease) that a landlord is required to provide written notice to a tenant of the intent to repossess the property. The bill has statewide application and applies to (1) any residential lease that is executed on or after the bill’s October 1, 2021 effective date and (2) residential leases that were executed prior to October 1, 2021, that have expired and resulted in a tenancy created under specified provisions of § 8-402 of the Real Property Article, on or after the bill’s effective date. Finally, except for property meeting specified criteria, the bill creates an exception to the standard notice requirements if a landlord receives a notice of intent to foreclose and desires to terminate a tenancy.
Discrimination in Employment
In general, State law prohibits discrimination in employment based on an individual’s race, color, religion, ancestry or national origin, sex, age, marital status, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, or disability. The Maryland Commission on Civil Rights (MCCR) is the State agency charged with the enforcement of laws prohibiting discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, and State contracting.
An individual alleging employment discrimination may file a complaint with MCCR within specified timeframes (a timely filed administrative complaint is generally necessary in order to bring a subsequent civil action that alleges an unlawful employment practice). Complaints regarding discrimination in employment must be filed with MCCR or a federal or local human relations commission. Senate Bill 455/House Bill 290 (both passed) increase the time for filing a complaint with MCCR alleging an unlawful employment practice other than harassment from within six months to within 300 days after the date on which the alleged discriminatory act occurred. The bills specify that a complaint filed with the EEOC within six months or a local human relations commission within 300 days is deemed to have complied with the requirements.
Under the Maryland Flexible Leave Act, a private-sector employer who provides paid leave to its employees must allow an employee to use earned paid leave to care for an immediate family member. Senate Bill 473/House Bill 56 (both passed) expand Maryland’s Flexible Leave Act by authorizing employees of employers with at least 15 employees to use earned paid leave for bereavement leave. An employee is allowed to use bereavement leave for the death of the employee’s immediate family member, including an adult child of the employee.
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires workers to be paid a minimum hourly wage and overtime compensation be paid for work over 40 hours in a week. However, certain types of employees are exempt from the FLSA minimum wage and overtime pay requirements. The Maryland Wage and Hour Law is the State complement to the FLSA, which specifies minimum wage and overtime requirements for employers and employees in the State.
Senate Bill 107/House Bill 685 (both passed) require an employer to pay specified wages and benefits – called a “secure wage” – to a covered employee beginning January 1, 2022. A “covered employee” is a nonexempt employee under the FLSA who performs work at a “heightened security interest location,” which includes Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and Pennsylvania Station in Baltimore. Employees of retail or food establishments, airlines, construction companies, and rental car companies are exempt from the bills’ requirements. The bills apply to a covered employee only if at least 50% of the covered employee’s time during any workweek is performed at a heightened security interest location. Specifically, an employer must pay a covered employee an hourly wage rate of at least:
- $13.50 per hour beginning January 1, 2022;
- $14.25 per hour beginning January 1, 2023;
- $15.00 per hour beginning January 1, 2024; and
- $16.00 per hour beginning January 1, 2025.
In addition, starting on January 1, 2026, an employer must also pay a covered employee an additional supplement benefit rate with a value of at least $1.00 per hour, which is determined by either applying the full supplement benefit to assist in covering the employee’s share of health or other benefits, excluding any existing paid leave; applying a portion of the supplement benefit to assist in covering the employee’s share of health or other benefits, excluding paid leave, and paying the balance in cash; or paying the entire supplement benefit in cash. Further, an employer must pay overtime wages of at least 1.5 times the usual hourly wage required under the bills for each hour over 40 hours that a covered employee works during one workweek.
Lastly, an employer may not include a tip credit amount as part of the wage of a covered employee whose duties include providing passengers with wheelchair or other related assistance. These tipped employees are entitled to be paid the required secure wage and to retain all tips received.
The commissioner must enforce the bills’ provisions, but a person aggrieved by a regulation adopted by the commissioner, or by an order to pay wages issued by the commissioner, may file an action. Similarly, if an employer pays less than the wages required, the covered employee may bring an action against the employer. Finally, a covered employee or employer who violates certain provisions of the bills is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to a fine of up to $1,000. Covered employees are exempted from the minimum wage and enforcement requirements of the Maryland Wage and Hour Law.