Employers involved in construction projects in Maryland and the District of Columbia have a new challenge: complying with state laws enacted in both jurisdictions that require employers to accrue paid sick leave hours for each employee. Under the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act, which went into effect this year, all companies that have 15 or more employees are required to provide Maryland employees with 40 hours of paid leave per year. In the District of Columbia, since 2008, all employers — regardless of size — are required to provide paid sick leave to D.C. employees. In D.C., the amount of paid leave to which an employee is entitled varies with the size of the company. The paid leave laws also allow an employee to take paid leave to care for a sick relative and address a domestic violence incident.
Here’s how it works: an employer must keep track of each employee’s entitlement to paid sick leave. Then, if an employee makes a proper request to take paid leave, the employer must provide paid leave and in each case account for how much paid sick leave time is left. In Maryland, any paid leave cannot be carried over to the next year and cannot be cashed out at the time of an employee’s termination. In D.C., unused paid leave is carried over to the next year although an employee cannot cash out his unused paid leave upon termination.
In both Maryland and D.C., state government is empowered to investigate complaints about violations of the paid leave statutes and take appropriate action against offenders. In addition, an aggrieved employee can bring a court action to recover damages. Both jurisdictions impose hefty sanctions on employers that violate the paid sick leave statute.
The construction industry has proven particularly vulnerable to actions, administrative and judicial, to enforce an employee’s paid leave rights. Contractors and subcontractors often hire employees on construction projects who work on a short-term or periodic basis. Keeping track of these employees’ hours is challenging and potentially costly…but it must be done.
I have advised employers on employment law matters for more than 30 years. If you have any questions, call me.
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