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The Intersection of Maryland and Montgomery County’s Earned Sick and Safe Leave Laws and COVID-19

Please note: The recently enacted Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) affords employees greater paid leave rights. Earned sick and safe leave may be used by an employee in addition to leave provided under the FFCRA.

Employers should be aware of their state and county laws (as well as Executive Order 13706 for government contractors) which may afford paid sick and safe leave to employees. In this article we touch on a few of the sick and safe leave laws that apply in the area.

Maryland, DC, and Montgomery County have earned sick and safe leave laws in place, which is a major advantage to most workers who cannot afford to take unpaid time off in the event that they are feeling ill during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

But, how do the laws differ? How are they similar? Businesses should note that when there’s overlap between the state and county laws, they usually must follow the most generous guidelines for the employee.

The Maryland Healthy Working Families Act

The Maryland Healthy Working Families Act provides that employers with 15 or more employees must give their employees at least 40 hours of paid sick and safe leave every year and those with under 15 employees must provide unpaid leave.

Maryland is one of just a few states with an earned sick and safe leave policy in place. Under the Maryland law, employees may take paid time off to care for or treat their own illness or their family member’s illness. This incentivizes sick employees to stay home, particularly during a pandemic like COVID-19.

DC's Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act

DC’s Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act requires employers who have employees working in DC (regardless of where the employer’s other offices or headquarters are located) to provide paid sick days for those employees (regardless of what state the employee resides in). The law provides different amounts of paid leave days based on how many employees the employer has working in DC (this varies between 3, 5, or 7 days):

  • 24 or fewer employees in DC = 1 hour of paid leave for every 87 hours worked for each employee, not to exceed 3 days of paid leave per calendar year.
  • 25 to 99 employees in DC = 1 hour of paid leave for every 43 hours worked for each employee, not to exceed 5 days of paid leave per calendar year.
  • 100 or more employees in DC = 1 hour of paid leave for every 37 hours worked for each employee, not to exceed 7 days of paid leave per calendar year.
  • Similar to the MD law, the DC law also provides paid time off to care for or treat their own illness or their family member’s illness.

The Montgomery County Earned Sick and Safe Leave Law

Montgomery County provides greater coverage to employees than the state. It states that employers with five or more employees give employees 56 hours of paid leave per year, and those with fewer than five employees must give their employees 32 hours of paid leave and 24 hours of unpaid leave.

In addition to providing leave in the event of the employee’s own illness or that of their family member’s, the law also specifies that earned sick and safe leave can cover time off for employees if the employer’s place of business is closed by order of a public official due to a public health emergency.

It also provides coverage if the school or child care center for the employee’s family member is closed by order of a public official due to a public health emergency. Many schools and childcare centers will remain closed over the next few weeks in response to the coronavirus pandemic, so employees who regularly work in the County may request earned sick and safe leave for this purpose.

What About Doctor’s Notes?

As far as requiring a doctor’s note, the Maryland law provides that employees who are absent for three or more days from work may be required to provide a doctor’s note. However, due to the demands on healthcare workers at this time, an employer may waive such a requirement.

If the employer chooses to do so, we recommend providing, in writing, that this is a temporary change to the employer’s policy, which normally requires a doctor’s note for extended absences. As for the employee’s return to work, it is advisable that the employer require a doctor’s note to assure the employer that the employee is now symptom free and cleared to return to work.

Nida Kanwal is an employment attorney who represent management in workplace employment matters. For more information on the new laws impacting Maryland employers, contact Nida at 301-657-0744 or nkanwal@lerchearly.com.

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This content is for your information only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Please consult your attorney before acting on any information contained here.

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