Since October 1, 2022, Maryland employers are obligated to reasonably accommodate not only the disabilities of employees, but also the disabilities of applicants.

Until the new legislation was passed, Maryland’s disability discrimination law applied only to employees. The expansion of Maryland’s disability discrimination law aligns it with federal law requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA generally applies to employers who have 15 or more employees for each working day in each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year.

As is the case under the ADA, Maryland’s new law does not require employers to provide an accommodation if it would cause undue hardship on the conduct of the employer’s business. Maryland’s new law is the most recent extension of anti-discrimination laws to people with disabilities. Nine years earlier, Maryland amended its Fair Employment Practices Act to require employers with at least 15 employees to provide accommodations to employees with disabilities contributed to or caused by pregnancy, unless the accommodation would cause an undue hardship on the employer’s business.

Takeaways

Particularly in light of Maryland’s anti-disability discrimination law, Maryland employers are encouraged to do the following:

1. Review hiring practices to ensure that those involved in hiring understand the obligation to accommodate not only employees with disabilities, but also applicants with disabilities.

2. Train managers how to recognize applicant accommodation requests, and how to effectively address those requests with the Human Resources Department and senior management.

3. Analyze accommodation requests on an individualized basis, keeping in mind the importance of engaging in an interactive dialog.

4. Train managers involved in the hiring process to ensure that hiring decisions are based upon merit, and not upon any legally impermissible factors.

5. Review existing insurances, including Employment Practices Liability Insurance, to determine whether the insurances provide sufficient protection for claims that may be brought by applicants under the new Maryland law.