• Maryland Bill Would Expand Employee Leave Entitlements
  • March 26, 2010 | Authors: Lynn A. Clements; Teresa Burke Wright
  • Law Firms: Jackson Lewis LLP - Baltimore Office ; Jackson Lewis LLP - Reston Office
  • Maryland employers could soon be required to allow employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in order to care for the employee’s siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, domestic partners, or children of domestic partners.  The Maryland Family and Medical Leave Act, introduced in the General Assembly by Delegate Heather Miziur (D-Montgomery County) on February 2, 2010, would require employers in Maryland to provide employees job-protected leave to care for these individuals on the same basis as leave is provided for a spouse, parent, son or daughter under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA).  The bill is scheduled for a hearing on March 18, 2010.

    Covered Employers and Employees

    Under the bill, covered employers include only those in Maryland already subject to the federal law.  Employee eligibility for the additional leave benefits also would be determined using the federal standards.

    Proposed FMLA-Type Leave

    The bill further provides that employees taking such leave would be entitled to the same protections and rights that an eligible employee is entitled to under the FMLA, including the right to reinstatement upon return from protected leave and the right to continuation of health benefits while on leave.

    Although no remedies are specified, the proposal would protect employees from discrimination and prohibit an employer from interfering with an employee’s leave rights.

    Reasons for Leave

    The FMLA currently entitles eligible employees to up to 12 workweeks of leave for any of the following reasons:

    • to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition;
    • to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition;
    • for the birth and care of the newborn child of the employee;
    • for placement with the employee of a son or daughter for adoption or foster care;
    • for any qualifying exigency arising out of the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent being on (or has been notified of an impending call to) “covered active duty” in the Armed Forces; or
    • to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness, provided the employee is the spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin of the service member.

    Effects on Leave Entitlements

    Although the Maryland bill provides that any leave taken under the federal law would count against an employee’s entitlement under the state law, the reverse is not true -- leave taken under the Maryland bill would not count against federal FMLA leave entitlement.  This means that an employee who takes 12 weeks of leave to care for an ill grandparent would have taken no recognized leave under the federal FMLA.  That individual would be entitled to an additional 12 weeks of leave, during the same 12-month period, for any reasons listed under the federal law.   Moreover, the bill does not specify how the proposed expansion would apply to the FMLA’s leave entitlements for military family leave.

    Federal Bill

    If the proposal passes, Maryland would become one of a handful of states mandating broader leave entitlements for employees than required by federal law.  Changes at the federal level, however, may not be far behind.  Last year, Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) introduced a bill (H.R. 2132) in Congress that would extend the FMLA’s protections to those caring for a same-sex domestic partner, grandparent or grandchild.