Maryland employers can expect some big changes to the State’s workplace harassment laws which will take effect October 1, 2019. Some notable changes include:
- The definition of “employee” now includes employees and independent contractors. This change significantly expands the pool of people who may file workplace harassment claims against an employer.
- The definition of “employer” now includes, for harassment claims only, employers with one (1) or more employees. This change expands the coverage of the law for harassment claims, which previously just applied to employers with fifteen (15) or more employees.
- The law now expressly defines “harassment” which may be on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry or national origin, sex, age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.
- The law specifies that an employer is liable for the harassment committed by an employee’s supervisor or if the negligence of the employer led to the harassment or continuation of the harassment.
- The law extends the period for filing a complaint of harassment with the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights to two (2) years from the date of the alleged harassment (increased from six months), and extends the period for filing a civil lawsuit to three (3) years from the date of the alleged harassment (increased from two (2) years).
These changes greatly expand the potential for liability for Maryland employers and include many employers and workers who were not previously covered by the law – most notably smaller companies and companies that rely extensively on independent contractors.
In order to prepare for the change in the law on October 1, 2019, employers should review their employee handbooks and company policies and procedures to ensure that they have clearly articulated an anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policy. Although the law imposes new training requirements on State employees, employers that now find themselves having to comply with the new law should consider investing in workplace harassment training as well.
Adam E. Konstas is an Attorney in PK Law’s Employment and Education Group. He represents private sector employers, local school boards, superintendents, private schools and colleges before federal and state courts, and federal and state civil rights agencies on a variety of matters, including employment discrimination litigation, teacher and student discipline, collective bargaining, and sexual harassment. Mr. Konstas can be reached at 410-339-5786 or email@example.com.