Effective immediately, employers in Montgomery County, Maryland must allow eligible employees in the County to use up to 56 hours of paid sick and safe leave provided under Montgomery County’s sick and safe leave law for birth, adoption, foster care, or bonding with the employee’s child. The County Council adopted this measure to bridge gaps in employees’ ability to use paid leave for various combinations of parental leave under federal and state laws.

Montgomery County Sick and Safe Leave Law and Recent Amendments

Beginning October 1, 2016, employers in Montgomery County were required to provide most employees in the County with up to 56 hours of paid sick and safe leave. Employers with five or more employees must provide at least one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked, not to exceed 56 hours of earned paid leave in a calendar year. Employers with fewer than five employees must provide leave at the same rate – one hour for every 30 hours worked – and up to 56 hours of leave per year. However, for these small employers, only 32 hours must be paid and 24 hours can be provided on an unpaid basis. Employees exempt from overtime requirements earn leave pursuant to their normal workweek, up to 40 hours each week.1

On October 28, 2016, the Montgomery County Council amended the Earned Sick and Safe Leave Law to provide that employees may use earned sick and safe leave for parental purposes, including:

  1. For the birth of a child, or for the placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care; and
  2. To care for a newborn, newly adopted, or newly placed child within one year of birth, adoption, or placement.

This amendment goes into effect immediately and expands the prior covered reasons for use of earned paid sick and safe leave, which include:

  1. An employee's mental or physical condition;
  2. A family member's mental or physical condition;
  3. A family member who presents a risk to the community because of exposure to a communicable disease;
  4. Securing preventative medical care for an employee or a family member;
  5. The closure of a place of business due to a public health emergency;
  6. The closure of a school or childcare center of a family member due to a public health emergency; and
  7. Medical attention, legal services or any services provided by victim's organizations or to temporarily relocate due to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.

Federal and State Leaves Applicable to Maryland Employees

The amendments to the Earned Sick and Safe Leave Law expand the permissible uses of sick and safe leave for parental purposes to employees working in Montgomery County. Depending on the number of employees employed by the employer, Maryland employees may also be eligible for leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) or the Maryland Parental Leave Act (“MPLA”).

Under the FMLA, eligible employees who work for covered employers can take unpaid, job-protected leave for up to 12 workweeks during any 12-month period for certain family and medical reasons, including for the birth and care of their newborn child or for placement with employee of a child for adoption or foster care. Employees are eligible if the employee has worked for their employer for at least 12 months and for at least 1,250 hours during that period, and works at a location where the company employees 50 or more employees within 75 miles. An eligible employee may substitute accrued paid leave for unpaid FMLA leave if the employee has paid leave available.

Under the MPLA, eligible employees may take up to 6 workweeks of unpaid leave in any 12-month period for the birth of the employee’s child, or the placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care. The MPLA applies to employers with 15 to 49 employees, and employees of such employers are eligible for leave under the MPLA if the employee has requested that the employer provide parental leave, and as of the date the requested leave begins, the employee has been employed for at least one year and for 1,250 hours during the previous year. Eligible employees may choose to substitute accrued paid leave for unpaid MPLA leave. However, the MPLA does not cover “care” of a child, and eligible employees are not able to use accrued paid leave for the care of and bonding with a new child for the first year.

Additionally, under the Maryland Flexible Leave Act (“MFLA”), employees are permitted to use their earned paid leave for the illness of a spouse, child or parent. The MFLA governs any employer employing 15 or more employees for each working day in each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year within the state of Maryland. The MFLA, however, does not guarantee eligible employees the ability to use accrued paid leave for the birth, adoption, foster care, and care of the employee’s new child.

Recommendations

The required amount of paid sick and safe leave for Montgomery County employees has not changed. However, employers should review their current sick leave policies that cover Montgomery County employees to ensure that the policies comply with the expanded rights to paid leave required by the Sick and Safe Leave Law amendment.