On  May  15,  2015,  Governor  Martin  O’Malley  signed the  Fairness  for  All  Marylanders  Act  (the  “Act”).  The Act   expands   protections   for   transgender   individuals by   banning   gender   identity   discrimination   in   the workplace.  It  takes  effect  on  October  1,  2014.

The Act amends the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act to include an individual’s gender  identity as a protected classification. The Act prohibits Maryland employers with 15 or more employees in each of 20 or more calendar weeks from discriminating against job applicants or employees on the basis of gender identity. The term “gender identity” is defined as “gender-related identity, appearance, expression, or behavior of a person, regardless of the person’s assigned sex at birth.” Gender identity can be shown by either “consistent and uniform assertion of the person’s gender identity” or “any other evidence that the gender identity is sincerely held as part of the person’s core identity.”

The Act does not require employers to grant preferential treatment based on gender identity because of any imbalance that may exist with respect to the total number or percentage of such individuals in the workforce. The Act also specifically permits employers to establish and require an employee to adhere to certain reasonable workplace appearance, grooming, and dress standards that are directly related to the nature of the employment and are not precluded by federal and state law, provided employers allow any employee to appear, groom, and dress consistent with the employee’s gender identity.

Employers will be immune from liability under the Act and common law with regard to its reasonable acts to verify the gender identity of any employee or applicant in response to a charge filed against the employer based on gender identity. Religious institutions are exempt from the employment discrimination provisions with respect to the employment of individuals of a particular gender identity to perform work connected with the activities of the religious entity.

Employers should ensure compliance with the new law by reviewing and, if necessary, revising employee training programs, anti-discrimination and harassment policies, and appearance, grooming and dress codes.

Maryland joins 17 states and the District of Columbia in prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity.

Click here for the full text of the amendment.