Montgomery County, MD’s Earned Sick and Safe Leave Act

July 29, 2015

September 2016 UPDATE: To help employers comply with the conspicuous posting requirement, Montgomery County has now provided a model notice. Employers may post this notice as-is, contact Montgomery County’s Office of Human Rights to request an editable format, or create their own notice based on this model as long as the notice contains all of the necessary information. A fact sheet is also available.

In June 2015, the Montgomery County Council enacted legislation to provide minimum standards for earned sick and safe leave. Under this Act, employees working within Montgomery County, Maryland (the County) will earn a mandated minimum amount of paid sick and safe leave starting in October 2016.

Employers with 5 or more employees will be required to provide at least one hour of paid sick and safe leave for every 30 hours worked by an employee within the County, up to 56 hours per year. Employers must allow employees to carry over the balance of up to 56 hours of unused paid sick and safe leave to the next year, unless the employer awards the full annual amount of leave at the start of each year. However, the employer is allowed to cap an employee’s use of sick and safe leave to 80 hours in any calendar year.

For employers with fewer than 5 employees, only the first 32 hours of earned sick and safe leave each year must be paid leave. The remaining 24 hours of earned leave will accrue at the same rate, but may be provided as unpaid leave.

Earned leave hours will begin accruing for each employee on the Act’s effective date or the employee’s date of hire, whichever is later. However, the employer may require employees to be employed for 90 calendar days before using accrued leave. After 90 days, an employee must be allowed to use sick and safe leave as it is accrued, subject to reasonable minimum increment requirements of no more than 4 hours. Employees who are exempt from overtime requirements are assumed to work a normal workweek up to 40 hours each week for the purpose of accruing leave.

Under the Act, sick and safe leave may be used for:

  • the care, or preventive medical care, of the employee or a family member’s illness, injury, or condition;
  • a closure of the employee’s worksite due to public health emergency or official order;
  • public health emergency closing of a family member’s school or child care center;
  • the care of a family member who has been deemed, by a health care provider or official, to be unsafe to the community due to exposure to a communicable disease; or
  • the employee or a family member to obtain medical, legal, or other services necessary due to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

“Family member” includes the employee’s child, parent or parent-in-law, legal guardian, grandparent, spouse, grandchild, and sibling, as well as the spouse of the employee’s grandparent and sibling.

Employers may not require employees to disclose specific details of the medical issue, provide certification that would violate the Social Security Act or HIPAA, or use leave in increments greater than 4 hours. An employer is allowed to require “reasonable documentation” to verify leave was used appropriately if an employee uses more than 3 consecutive days of leave.

Employers are required to notify employees of the leave they are entitled to under this Act. The notice may be provided to employees by conspicuous posting, inclusion in an employee handbook, or distribution upon hire. A model notice will be published by the County in at least English and Spanish. Employers also must provide written statements of available leave balances with each wage payment or as part of an online system. Employers are not required to allow employees to cash out unused leave upon termination.

The provisions of this Act do not apply to certain types of employees, such as individuals employed on a temporary, ad hoc basis, employees who regularly work less than 8 hours per week, independent contractors, or union employees under agreements that do not expire until after October 1, 2016.

If you already have a paid leave policy, including a PTO plan, that meets or exceeds these requirements, you are not required to make any changes to your policy, but you will need to comply with the notification requirements. Please contact your Keller account team or your payroll advisor with any questions.