Prince George’s County “Bans the Box” 

Following on the heels of Montgomery County and the District of Columbia, Prince George’s County is the latest local jurisdiction to “ban the box.” The Prince George’s County law prohibits private employers from making inquiries about an applicant’s criminal record on an employment application or through another medium (such as a consumer reporting agency) until the conclusion of the applicant’s first interview.  Confused about the differences among all three “ban the box” laws? Here is a chart that breaks it down: 

Click here to view the table

New District of Columbia Non-Discrimination Laws

D.C.’s Mayor signed two new measures amending the D.C. Human Rights Act (“DCHRA”) to prohibit (1) discrimination by religiously-affiliated educational institutions on the basis of sexual orientation; and (2) workplace bias related to reproductive decisions. 

The first amendment to the DCHRA was made to do away with the previous Armstrong Amendment. The Armstrong Amendment was adopted in 1989 to protect church-affiliated schools from recognizing or funding school groups that promote, encourage, or condone any homosexual act, lifestyle, orientation, or belief if they were against a church’s tenets.  This amendment would no longer allow the school to deny such recognition or funding. 

The second amendment to the DCHRA, the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2014,would prohibit employers or employment agencies from discriminating against employees based on their reproductive health decisions, including any decision to use or access a particular drug, device or medical service. This would prohibit employers from terminating employees because of their use of birth control, because they have sought an abortion, or because they have undergone in vitro fertilization, among other things. The amendments will not become law until the expiration of a 30-day review period. 

Amended D.C. Wage Theft Prevention Act Predicted to go into Effect in February

The D.C. Wage Theft Prevention Amendment Act of 2014 is predicted to go into effect at the end of February. Once the law goes into effect, employers will be required to give employees written notice, both in English and in the employee’s primary language, of their wages. The notice must include: (1) the employer’s name, address, and telephone number; (2) the employee’s regular payday, rate of pay and basis of that rate; and (3) the employee’s overtime rate of pay and exemptions from overtime pay, as well as other information.

On February 3, 2015, the Washington, D.C. Council passed an emergency amendment which requires that employers only maintain time records for certain kinds of exempt employees (i.e., seamen, railroad employees, car salesmen, parking lot and parking garage attendants, and airport employees who voluntarily switch shifts with other employees where before it was unclear whether employers had to maintain time records for all exempt employees). The emergency amendments also make clear that the D.C. Mayor’s office must make sample written notices available in languages other than English and that exempt employees may be paid on a monthly, rather than bi-weekly, basis.

This will be a big change once it goes into effect, and employers will not have much time to get their notices ready. Employers are best advised to start drafting their notices now!

Montgomery County and State of Maryland Considering Paid Sick and Safe Leave  

Montgomery County, Maryland, is considering legislation which would mandate that local businesses provide employees with paid sick leave. The bill being considered by the County Council would provide employees with one hour of sick and safe leave(i.e., leave that can be used in situations dealing with or relating to instances of domestic violence, sexual assault, or even being stalked)  for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 56 hours per year of paid sick and safe leave. 

Similarly, the State of Maryland is considering whether to mandate paid employee sick and safe leave days. The Maryland Healthy Working Families Act would require that employers with 10 employees or more grant employees one hour of paid sick and safe leave for every 30 hours worked. The Senate Finance Committee held its first hearing on the proposed Act on February 3, 2015, and it was hotly contested.