What is the Montgomery County Sick and Safe Leave Law?
Effective October 1, 2016, all private businesses operating in Montgomery County that employ 1 or more persons in the County must provide employees (excluding those who do not have regular work schedules or who regularly work less than eight hours per week) with one hour of paid sick and safe leave for every 30 hours worked in the County. Employers with 5 or more employees must allow their employees to earn up to 56 hours of paid sick and safe leave per year. Employers with fewer than 5 employees must allow their employees to earn up to 32 hours of paid sick and safe leave and up to 24 hours of unpaid sick and safe leave per year (employees must earn paid leave first and earn unpaid leave only after reaching the 32-hour paid leave total). Paid sick and safe leave must be paid out at the employee’s usual wage rate, except that tipped employees must be paid at least the County’s minimum wage. Employers are not required to allow an employee to use more than 80 hours of sick and safe leave in a calendar year. Employees are entitled to carry over up to 56 hours of unused sick and safe leave per year, unless the employer awards the full amount of leave the employee would earn over the entire year at the beginning of the year. Employers do not have to compensate employees for unused sick or safe leave upon termination of employment.
If my company already provides paid leave, does it also have to provide additional sick and safe leave?
No. If an employer already provides at least 56 hours of paid leave per year that can be used in the situations described below, the employer does not have to provide additional sick and safe leave.
How can sick and safe leave be used?
Leave can be used to care for an employee’s physical or mental illness, injury, or condition or that of a family member (who constitutes a family member is defined in the law); to obtain preventative medical care for the employee or a family member; if the employee’s place of business or family member’s school or childcare center is closed due to a public health emergency; or to seek medical, social, or legal assistance or to relocate as a result of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. Employees cannot be required to find someone to “cover” their shift and only have to provide documentation if using more than three days of sick and safe leave consecutively.
How do employers comply with the new law?
Employers must provide a written or electronic statement of an employee’s available sick and safe leave each time wages are distributed and keep internal records of the amount of sick and safe leave earned and used for three years. In addition, employers must provide notice of the leave requirement by: posting notice in a conspicuous place, including notice in the employee handbook, or distributing notice at hire. The Montgomery County Office of Human Rights has provided a model notice for employers’ use, available here:
Failure to provide leave under the law can result in a claim before the Montgomery County Office of Human Rights, which could lead to the award of compensatory damages and legal fees, as well as civil fines. Employers may not retaliate against employees for exercising the rights provided by the law.
Please contact Kathy Hoskins, Steve Metzger, or another member of the firm’s Employment Law Group if you need assistance in complying with this new rule.
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