What is the PLA?
Effective October 1, 2014, the Maryland Parental Leave Act (“PLA”) will entitle eligible employees to take a maximum of six workweeks of unpaid parental leave in a twelve-month period for the birth of a child of the employee or the placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care.
Who are “eligible employees”?
To be eligible for protection under the PLA, the employee must have been employed by the employer for a minimum of 12 months and worked at least 1,250 hours during the previous 12 months. The PLA does not protect independent contractors, nor does it protect employees who are employed at a work site with fewer than 15 employees if the employer has fewer than 15 total employees within 75 miles of the work site.
Which employers are covered?
The PLA applies to employers with at least 15 but not more than 49 employees in Maryland, regardless of how many employees an employer has outside of the state.
What leave restrictions can employers require?
Employers may require eligible employees to provide 30 days’ written notice of parental leave, unless a premature birth or “unexpected” adoption or foster placement occurs.
Additionally, employers may deny unpaid parental leave if doing so would prevent “substantial and grievous economic injury” to the employer’s operations, as long as they notify employees before the leave period begins.
Finally, employers that provide paid leave to eligible employees may require those employees to substitute paid leave for any part (or all) of the parental leave period. Eligible employees also have the option of substituting paid leave for the parental leave period.
What may employers do upon the employee’s return?
Upon returning from parental leave, eligible employees are entitled to be restored to their original position or an equivalent position with equivalent benefits, pay, and terms of employment.
The employer may refuse to reinstate an employee, however, in order to prevent “substantial and grievous economic injury” to the employer. The employer may also terminate the employee for cause during the parental leave period.
An employer may not retaliate against an employee for requesting or taking leave or for complaining that the employer has not complied with the PLA.
Covered employers should review their employment policies and practices in light of this new law. Please contact Kathy Hoskins, Saul Gilstein, Steve Metzger, or another member of the firm's Employment Law Group if you need assistance in complying with this new ordinance.
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