There are several new pieces of legislation in Maryland that went into effect October 1, 2022:
- The first new Maryland legislation (SB450) alters the definition of harassment as it pertains to employment discrimination.
- The second (SB451) tolls the statute of limitations for an employee to file a civil action alleging an unlawful employment practice while an administrative charge is pending.
- The third (HB78) extends disability accommodations to job applicants.
Maryland Definition of Employment Harassment Altered
SB450 alters the definition of harassment to include unwelcome and offensive conduct which need not be severe or pervasive and the “conduct is based on race, color, religion, ancestry or national origin, sex, age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.” The new definition also defines sexual harassment as “conduct, which need not be severe or pervasive, that consists of unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other conduct of a sexual nature.” To constitute harassment, including sexual harassment, “(1) submission to the conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of employment of an individual; (2) submission to or rejection of the conduct is used as a basis for employment decisions affecting the individual; or (3) based on the totality of the circumstances, the conduct unreasonably creates a working environment that a reasonable person would perceive to be abusive or hostile.” By removing the requirement that conduct be severe or pervasive, complainants enjoy a decreased burden of establishing a claim for harassment in the employment context, potentially increasing the number of claims that employers may be subjected to.
Maryland Statute of Limitations Tolled for Unlawful Employment Practice Suits
Under existing Maryland law, a complainant may bring a civil action alleging an unlawful employment practice if the complainant initially filed a timely administrative charge or a complaint under federal, State, or local law; at least 180 days have elapsed since the filing of the administrative charge or complaint; and the complaint was filed within the applicable statute of limitations. The statute of limitations for a plaintiff to file a civil action on the basis of an unlawful employment practice is “two (2) years after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred; or if the complaint is alleging harassment, the civil action is filed within 3 years after the alleged harassment occurred.” SB451 tolls the statute of limitations for a complainant to file a civil action alleging an unlawful employment practice while an administrative charge or complaint is pending, thereby providing complainants with additional time to initiate a lawsuit. Delays in the disposition and processing of an administrative charge or proceeding could significantly expand the time period for employees to commence a civil action, delaying finality for employers as well as potentially impeding their ability to defend against claims due to the passage of time.
Disability Accommodations Extended to Applicants for Employment
Lastly, HB78, extends an employer’s existing obligation to reasonably accommodate an employee’s disability to applicants for employment as well, unless such accommodation would cause “undue hardship on the conduct of the employer’s business”. This requirement is also effective October 1, 2022, and is applicable to employers with fifteen (15) or more employees for each working day in each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year.
Disclaimer: The information contained herein is not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. Employers should closely monitor the rules and regulations specific to their jurisdiction(s) and should seek advice from counsel relative to their rights and responsibilities.