Every year, the Maryland General Assembly Session considers new laws that could have a big impact on employers. This year is no different, as several bills have been introduced in the Maryland General Assembly that could impact current hiring practices. One bill of note is House Bill 78, known as the Discrimination in Employment – Reasonable Accommodations for Applicants with Disabilities act. This bill, first read in the House on January 12, 2022, seeks to clarify existing protections for disabled applicants in the hiring process by prohibiting employers from failing or refusing to make certain accommodations for the known disabilities of an applicant for employment unless the accommodation would cause an undue hardship to the employer.
Upon first glance, this bill may seem to simply reiterate existing law. However, upon further examination, this bill goes beyond existing law by providing protection not only to “qualified” individuals with a disability, but seemingly to all applicants. Of note, the bill was recently amended to remove the term “qualified” as a modifying term to the addition of “applicant for employment” in existing nondiscrimination law. This amendment significantly broadens the scope of existing law and potentially impacts the ability of the employer to raise certain defenses in litigation. In other words, employers would have to provide reasonable accommodations to the known disability of all applicants for employment – not just qualified individuals with disabilities. Also, the amendment arguably lowers the bar for potential plaintiffs who would not have to establish that they are otherwise “qualified” – just that they are an applicant.
HB78 passed through the House and is currently awaiting a second hearing in the Senate. Maryland employers will have to closely monitor the progress of this legislation as the 90 Day session continues. In the meantime, now is the time to review your current hiring policies and practices for compliance with current laws and keeping in mind any potential impacts of this new legislation.
Adam E. Konstas is a Member with PK Law. He represents local school boards, superintendents, private schools, colleges, and private sector employers before federal and state courts as well as federal and state administrative agencies on a variety of matters, including employment discrimination claims, employee (and student) discipline, labor relations, and wage/hour claims. Mr. Konstas also advises clients on the design and implementation of policies and procedures regarding employee (and student) relations, employee handbooks, hiring and termination procedures, as well as school system-wide policy issues including the use of online instructional tools and cloud computing, student data privacy, anti-discrimination. Mr. Konstas is well versed in the burgeoning website accessibility area of law and has successfully resolved a number of matters involving website accessibility. He can be reached at 410-339-5786 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adam received research and writing assistance for this article from PK Law Intern Colin Tiffany. Colin is Senior at Westminster High School in Carroll County, Maryland.