October 1 marked the effective date of a number of laws passed in the Maryland General Assembly’s 2013 session. The end of capital punishment and the ban on hand-held cell phone usage while driving have gotten a lot of attention, but there are some other new laws of interest in the employment arena.
The Pregnancy Fairness Act, discussed here earlier, takes effect on October 1. In brief, employers must consider requested accommodations for pregnant workers, and in many cases must grant them. My condolences to the pregnant women who were unable to avail themselves of these protections during the summer; I heard from several of them. But now, employers with at least 15 employees must make accommodations if they are available, and must consider a pregnant worker’s request for a flexible schedule to attend doctor’s appointments, for example, or a temporary ease on lifting requirements.
The unpaid wage lien process also is available. Discussed here before, the new law permits a worker who has been denied wages (often the last paycheck) to use a new process to get a lien on property of the employer. The procedural burden is then on the employer to dispute the claim. This procedure will be helpful for employees whose unpaid wages are not high enough to warrant hiring a lawyer. Indirectly, it will benefit employers who pay their workers, by impairing the illegitimate profits earned by employers who steal from their employees.
Many applicants for employment with the state cannot have their criminal records rule them out prior to at least the time they are granted an interview. Obviously, some types of backgrounds can be considered for some jobs. Our financial overseers do not have to hire convicted embezzlers, for example. But people with records will no longer find that the door to state jobs is locked.
Lastly, a new law prohibits employers of tipped employees from charging them for the costs of customers who run out on their checks. This has been a frequent practice imposed on wait staff. A bar or restaurant facing serious issues with thieving customers must find a better way of preventing freebie meals.