Maryland Parental Leave Act and the FMLA Overview for Business Owners

Maryland Parental Leave Act
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Maryland Parental Leave Act Overview for Business Owners

The Maryland Parental Leave Act (PLA) went into effect on October 1, 2014. Like Colorado, Maryland legislatures sought to supplement FMLA law and created a new local leave for employees. Specifically PLA requires small employers to provide protected unpaid leave to employees that is related to the birth, adoption or new foster child to that employee. PLA seeks to expand most of the coverage that is awarded to employees of large employers under FMLA. Whereas the Federal FMLA covers employees who work for employers with 50 or more employees, PLA specifically targets employers within the State of Maryland who have between 15 and 49 employees. Additionally, there are a few differences between FMLA and PLA. The purpose of this article is to educate and inform businesses and payroll managers regarding the regulations of PLA.

Overview of Maryland State’s Parental Leave Act

The Parental Leave Act is designed to provide up to 6 weeks of unpaid, protected leave to new parents in Maryland. Whereas FMLA provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid, protected leave and is only applicable to employees of large employers, PLA expands the coverage to smaller employers. However, there is a key difference as PLA does not have a medical cause for taking PLA. It only applies to employees who have given birth, adopted or had a child placed in their home for foster care. It relates only to the parental aspect of FMLA.

Who qualifies for PLA leave in Maryland?

The Maryland Parental Leave Act expands the scope of FMLA by including mid sized companies. Just like FMLA, PLA requires that employees must have worked for their employer at least 1,250 hours in the previous 12 months. Also like FMLA, the employee must have worked for the employer for a total of 12 months previous to the leave, and just like FMLA, Maryland law doesn’t require a consecutive 12 month employment prior to leave.

What is different from FMLA is that the PLA includes much smaller companies than FMLA. Instead of employers with at least 50 employees within a 15 mile radius, PLA includes businesses with at least 15 employees within the same radius. These small employers with at least 15 employees have to provide PLA to their employees.   

How is employee size determined for an employer who fluctuates around 15 employees during the year?

Employers whose employee size fluctuates during the year must look at their weekly totals of employees for the current and preceding year. If the employer has had 15 or more employees for 20 week or more of the current years or preceding years, then the employer is considered to qualify under the PLA mandate. If the employer has not had 15 or more employees for at least 20 weeks of the current or past year, then the employee can be considered too small for PLA to apply.

Taking PLA and FMLA

Employees who experience the birth of a child or the placement of a child into their home through adoption or foster care are able to access Parental Leave.

  • The new birth birth of a child to the employee
  • The adoption of a child into the home
  • The placement of a child into the home through foster care

This is congruent with the Federal FMLA law. Many times an employee will take PLA and will consecutively take FMLA leave.

In fact, every time an employee of a large employer, those with at least 50 employees within a 75 mile radius, takes Parental Leave, they will also use up time from the Federal FMLA. However, employees who take leave, and whose employer doesn’t qualify as a large employer under FMLA law, will only use PLA leave. That means that if during leave, or in the 12 month window that leave is given, their employer becomes a large employer under FMLA, the employee would then qualify for an additional 12 weeks of leave through FMLA.

FMLA allows for numerous other leave reasons that are not covered under PLA. Some of those allowable reasons are for the employees own serious health condition, or for a family member’s. Employees can also take FMLA for military exigencies. None of those reasons are allowed under PLA.

However, since all reasons allowed by PLA are allowed under FMLA, PLA does not usually add additional leave for employees. This is because any employee who qualifies for both leaves will use both PLA and FMLA simultaneously. If not, the employee will typically only use up PLA as discussed previously.

Protected Job Status

Like FMLA, PLA protects the employee’s job when taking PLA. When the employee returns to work after taking PLA, the employee must be reinstated back to their same position or to a similar position as they were in prior to taking PLA. The work conditions such as pay, benefits, and other terms of employment must be the same as their previous position.

If the Parental Leave would place a “substantial and grievous economic injury” to the employer, then the employer is allowed to deny the Parental Leave for that employee. If the employer is going to deny leave, then they must do so before the employee starts to take the leave. If the employer denies leave and the employee has already begun the leave, then the employee must return to work. If the employee chooses not to return to work, then the employer is not required to protect the employee’s job title or status.

Notification of Leave Requirements

The employer can require an employee to give up to 30 days notice when taking Parental Leave. However, an employer cannot require a 30 day notice if the birth of a child is premature or the employee is placed with a child due to unexpected adoption or unexpected foster placement.

Protected Benefits

While the employee is on leave for PLA, the employer is required to maintain group health plan coverage for the employee. THis is only applicable if the employee’s already enrolled in the employer’s group health plan. The employer must keep the employee enrolled up to six weeks. The employee is further required to continue to pay their portion of the plan premiums.

The employer can require that the employee substitute any paid earned leave for the PLA leave. If the employee is using paid leave as part of their PLA, then the employer can take the premiums for the employees health plan coverage out of their paid leave.

Retaliation and Recompense

Employers are not allowed to retaliate against an employee who exerts or attempts to exert their rights under the Parental Leave Act. If an employee does get retaliated against, then the law provides for several methods of recompense. The employee is allowed to bring a civil suit against the employer for violating the act. Damages can include loss of wages, benefits, attorney fees and costs, and related costs.

Let SwipeClock Help

Business in Maryland must comply not only with the Maryland Parental Leave Act, but also with individual city or county sick leave laws. Additionally, these businesses have to also comply with Federal Overtime Laws, the Family Leave Medical Act and any other national or local laws that are enacted. SwipeClock provides a comprehensive array of workforce management and time tracking tools that can help businesses to more easily stay in compliance with local and national laws. Records are effortlessly kept for years and accrual is automatically tracked and reported to employees according the state and city laws. Additionally, with geo-timekeeping clocks, businesses can effortlessly track time worked in specific cities to ensure compliance.

Written by Annemaria Duran. Last updated July 12, 2017

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