Beginning on October 1, 2020, several new employment laws will take effect in Maryland. With October 1st right around the corner, employers should take the following steps to make sure they are not caught off guard.
The CROWN Act
When the “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair” (CROWN) Act takes effect on October 1st, Maryland will become the 7th state to ban discrimination on the basis of hairstyle. For purposes of the state’s antidiscrimination laws, the CROWN Act will expand the definition of “race” to include traits associated with race, including hairstyles such as braids, twists, and locks. Before October 1st, employers should carefully review their dress and appearance policies ahead of time to ensure that there are no prohibitions against specific hairstyles or textures. Employees and recruiters should also be trained in advance not to make comments on co-workers’ or applicants’ hair.
Maryland Mini-WARN Act
Maryland’s new Mini-WARN Act, which will complement the Federal WARN Act, will impose mandatory notice requirements on certain employers before mass layoffs. Employers should review the new law to determine whether they qualify as a covered employee. Under the Mini-WARN Act, employers are covered if they have 50 or more employees who operate industrial, commercial, or business enterprises (employees who work fewer than 20 hours per week and employees who have worked for less than six months are excluded). Employers who qualify 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).
Salary History Ban
Starting October 1st, amendments to the Maryland Equal Pay Act will make it illegal for an employer to:
- seek an applicant’s wage history
- retaliate against applicants who ask for the wage range of a position or refuse to provide their wage histories
- rely upon an applicant’s wage history during the hiring process.
Employers should review their job applications and interview questions to ensure there are no questions about salary history. Instead, employers may opt to ask applicants about their salary expectations.
Ban on Facial Recognition Technology.
Finally, on October 1st, Maryland 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, employers must obtain the applicant’s signature in a written waiver that is drafted in “plain language.”
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