COVID-19 has made 2020 an undeniably hard year for employees. Luckily, the Maryland legislature recently passed 4 new pro-employee laws that will go into effect on October 1, 2020.
Mandatory Mini-WARN Act
As I previously blogged, the federal WARN Act requires that employers with 100 or more employees give at least 60 days’ notice before a mass layoff or plant closure. Under Maryland’s current local “mini” WARN Act, employers are asked to follow some additional notice guidelines, but these are strictly voluntary. Beginning on October 1, 2020, Maryland’s new mini-WARN Act will finally impose mandatory notice requirements on certain employers. Specifically, employers with 50 or more employees who operate industrial, commercial, or business enterprises will need to give 60 days’ written notice before doing either of the following over the course of a 3-month period:
- relocating part of their operations, or
- reducing the number of employees by at least 25% (or by 15 employees, whichever is greater)
As discussed in my blog on the federal WARN Act, the federal version of the law has an exception for unforeseen business circumstances, natural disasters, and faltering businesses, which could potentially be invoked in the event of COVID-19 related layoffs. Interestingly, the new Maryland WARN Act will not have such exceptions.
Ban on Requesting Salary History
This new law will prohibit employers from asking applicants for their wage histories. It will also require an employer to provide an applicant with the wage range for the position they are applying for, should they request it. However, the law does not prohibit applicants from voluntarily disclosing their wage histories, nor does it prohibit employers from confirming wage histories voluntarily provided to them by applicants.
Race Discrimination Will Expand to Include Hairstyle Discrimination
A number of states already include hairstyle discrimination under the category of race discrimination, and Maryland will be joining those states on October 1, 2020. The new law will outlaw discrimination based on “certain traits associated with race, including hair texture and certain hairstyles.” These protected hairstyles will include braids, twists, and locks.
Ban on Facial Recognition Services in Job Interviews
Several employers are now using facial recognition services to evaluate prospective employees. Maryland’s new law will prohibit employers from using facial recognition services during an applicant’s interview to create a facial template without their consent. The law defines a facial recognition service as a form of technology that analyzes an applicant’s facial features, and a facial template is defined as a “machine-interpretable pattern of facial features that is extracted from one or more images of an individual by a facial recognition service.” To validly consent to the use of facial recognition technology, the applicant must sign a written waiver that is drafted in “plain language.”
If you have any questions related to Maryland’s new employment laws, or any other aspect of employment law, contact Thatcher Law Firm at 301-850-1246. www.ThatcherLaw.com. Email me at [email protected].
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