Maryland's Parental Leave Act (PLA) goes into effect on October 1, 2014, requiring small employers in Maryland to provide protected unpaid leave to employees related to the birth of an employee's child or the placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care. Specifically, the PLA applies to employers with between 15 and 49 employees in Maryland. Employers who have more than 50 employees in the region, but between 15 and 49 employees in Maryland, will be required to offer protected leave under the PLA, despite the fact that such employers would likely also be required to provide protected unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
The amount of protected unpaid leave to which employees are entitled under the PLA, however, is only six weeks during any twelve-month period, whereas the FMLA guarantees up to twelve weeks of leave during any twelve-month period. Employee eligibility requirements under the PLA largely mirror FMLA eligibility requirements.
As under the FMLA, when an employee returns to work after utilizing PLA leave, the employee must be restored to the position he or she held prior to PLA leave, or to a position equivalent in terms of pay, benefits and "other terms and conditions of employment." Some narrow exceptions apply to the reinstatement requirement.
The PLA also allows employees to bring a civil cause of action against an employer for violating the statute. Potential damages include lost wages and other benefits, as well as reasonable attorneys' fees and related costs. Additionally, the PLA includes an anti-retaliation provision, which protects employees from retaliation related to their request for or use of PLA leave, filing formal or informal complaints related to PLA leave, and/or participating in an investigation or proceeding related thereto.