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Maryland Expands Employee Protections Under Workplace Harassment Law

Published by and on July 24, 2019

Effective October 1, 2019, Maryland’s prohibition on workplace harassment extends to all Maryland employers and independent contractors.

On April 30, 2019, Maryland enacted House Bill 679 (“HB 679”), expanding employee protections under the State’s anti-discrimination and workplace harassment laws. The amended HB 679 will take effect October 1, 2019.

HB 679 makes the following changes to Maryland’s current anti-discrimination and anti-harassment law:

  • The definition of “employee” now includes employees and independent contractors. This means that “gig economy” workers classified as independent contractors may file claims of workplace harassment under the law;
  • Employers employing at least one employee are now subject to the workplace harassment law (the law originally applied only to employers employing 15 or more employees);
  • The meaning of “harassment” has been specifically defined to include workplace harassment based on race, color, religion, ancestry or national origin, sex, age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability;
  • Employers are now liable for the workplace harassment if an employer’s negligence led to the harassment or continuation of harassment;
  • The period for filing a complaint of harassment with the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights or other local human relations agency is now two years from the date of the alleged harassment (expanded from six months). Employees filing complaints of harassment with a federal agency (e.g., EEOC) must file within 180 days from the date of the alleged discrimination;
  • The period for filing a civil lawsuit alleging harassment under the law is now three years from the date of the alleged harassment (expanded from two years); and
  • State employees are now subject to additional anti-harassment training requirements (training requirements are not applicable to private employers).

Welter Insight

Maryland employers should take note of the expanded anti-harassment law. Employers should consider current workplace and employee anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies to ensure compliance under the law by October 1, 2019. Companies engaging independent contractors should equally be prepared to address workplace harassment issues by October 1, 2019.

While anti-harassment training is not required in the private sector, employers should consider whether employee anti-harassment training would be helpful in implementing an effective anti-harassment policy and avoiding liability under the law.

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