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As employment law constantly changes, the attorneys at Bean, Kinney & Korman stay up to date on the law as it develops. Our blog topics focus on those changes and what you need to know about them, ranging from severance agreements and the FLSA to social media in the workplace and recent court decisions. If you are interested in having us cover a specific topic, please let us know.

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On January 12, 2018, Maryland became the latest state to require employers to provide paid sick leave to employees, when the Maryland General Assembly overrode Governor Larry Hogan’s veto of the bill last year. The bill - known as the Healthy Working Families Act - will become law on February 11, 2018, unless the General Assembly acts to delay its implementation.

Like it or not, Donald Trump is the 45th President of the United States of America.  Now that the initial shock has worn off, it’s time to evaluate how federal employment laws, regulations, and enforcement may shift under the Trump Administration. 

While President Trump has not spoken at length regarding employment law since taking office, his pro-business philosophy and nomination of Andrew F. Puzder, a former restaurant executive, for Secretary of Labor (Puzder later withdrew his name from consideration) suggests that the Trump Administration will be significantly more employer-friendly than the Obama Administration

On October 1, 2016, Montgomery County, Maryland (the “County”) joined the growing list of jurisdictions requiring paid sick leave for employees of all entities doing business in Montgomery County. The County’s Earned Sick and Safe Leave Law (“Paid Leave Law”) is applicable to all employers doing business in the County.

This week, the County Council unanimously approved an expansion of the Paid Leave Law, effective as of November 1, 2016, to allow employees to use paid leave for the birth of a child or for the placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care. Employees will also be permitted to use paid leave to care for a newborn, newly adopted or newly placed child within one year of birth, adoption or placement of the child. The bill “is an important expansion of the [Paid Leave Law],” according to Tom Hucker, its lead sponsor, “to allow parents the flexibility to use their leave to spend time with their children.”

You can read an in-depth review of the Paid Leave Law here.

Federal contractors take notice: on Labor Day 2015, in a display of solidarity with workers and organized labor, President Barack Obama signed an executive order requiring paid sick leave for employees of federal government contractors. By some estimates, the executive order is likely to affect more than 300,000 employees of federal contractors who presently receive no paid leave benefits. The executive order, which will take effect in 2017, mandates that employees who work on federal contracts receive one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked. That works out to about seven days of paid leave per year for the average worker.

Predictably, the executive order, which President Obama was to have signed at a breakfast gathering of the Greater Boston Labor Council, is being applauded by organized labor groups. The executive order is the latest move by President Obama to expand entitlements and protections for federal contract workers. With other recent executive orders, he raised the minimum wage, expanded the availability of overtime for federal contract employees and expanded employee protections against discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

Take Your Dog to Work Day ("TYDTWDay"), sponsored by Pet Sitters International, is Friday, June 26, 2015. Every year, more than 10,000 companies participate, to celebrate dogs and encourage adoptions from local shelters.  This event also presents a great opportunity to partner with a local animal rescue, such as Arlington Chamber members Homeward Trails Animal Rescue and theAnimal Welfare League of Arlington.

If your company is considering allowing pets for the day, there are some legal implications to consider.

Effective March 27, 2015, the Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, will extend coverage to all legally married same-sex couples to take FMLA leave to provide care for their spouse. FMLA leave entitles eligible employees, as defined by the statute, to take unpaid leave for a “qualifying event” for a period of up to 12 weeks. In addition to serious health conditions of the employee, qualifying events include the care of a spouse or child with a serious health condition and leave due to a spouse’s covered military service.

Thirty-five years ago, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”) established that it is unlawful for employers with fifteen or more employees to discriminate against pregnant workers “because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions.” That remains the basic law of the land today. What has remained unclear, however, is whether Congress, in passing the PDA, meant to compel employers to provide pregnant employees who are not able to work for medical reasons with accommodations, such as a light duty job, to the same extent as similarly situated, non-pregnant employees.

The Supreme Court recently heard oral argument in a case brought by Peggy Young against United Parcel Service (“UPS”) that is expected to provide some guidance as to whether and under what circumstances an employer may be required to accommodate pregnant employees under the PDA. Irrespective of what the court decides, however, covered employers should continue to ask whether such accommodations may still be necessary under recently implemented amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).

The recent decisions by the Fourth Circuit and the D.C. Circuit address a controversy that could have far-reaching consequences for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the “ACA”). Under the ACA, states and the District of Columbia are authorized to establish health insurance market places (“exchanges”) where each state’s citizens may purchase health insurance.  If a state does not create an exchange, the ACA mandates that the Department of Health and Human Services establish a federal exchange to operate in the state.  At this time, fourteen states and the District of Columbia have exchanges, while thirty-six states have federal exchanges.

The ACA also creates a tax credit program that subsidizes the cost of insurance for lower income Americans. The ACA’s individual mandate requires individuals to maintain “minimum essential coverage,” which, in general, is enforced through a tax penalty. However, the individual mandate only applies when an individual’s health insurance premiums (after applying the tax credit subsidy to the premiums) are less than eight percent of their projected household income. Therefore, the tax credit increases the number of Americans who must purchase insurance, and since thirty-six states have a federal exchange, a significant number of Americans receive these tax credits without participating in state exchanges.

July 1, 2013
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Same-Sex Marriage (00344387).jpg

Employers must take heed and review their employee benefit packages in light of the Supreme Court’s opinion, United States v. Windsor, finding that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional.  The opinion directly impacts employers in the 12 states, including Maryland and the District of Columbia recognizing same-sex marriage. While the impact may not be as significant in the remaining states not recognizing same-sex marriages, the changes in  federal taxation and benefits will create an additional burden for employers operating multi-jurisdictional companies, particularly for Virginia which borders with two states recognizing same-sex marriage. 

What was the Ruling in Windsor?

In a 5-4 vote the Supreme Court found that DOMA was a violation of the Fifth Amendment which protects against abuses of government.  Same-sex couples legally married will now be entitled to numerous benefits previously only afforded under federal law to heterosexual couples.  What Windsor did not do, was strike Section 2, therefore leaving intact each state’s ability to not recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.