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Family Leave Required for Smaller Employers

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Effective Oct. 1, Maryland employers with 15 to 49 employees in the State must provide employees with unpaid parental leave benefits. An eligible employee may take up to six weeks of unpaid parental leave in a 12-month period for the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child. The legislation is similar to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which covers employers with 50 or more employees.

To qualify for benefits under the new Maryland law an employee must have worked for the employer for at least one year and for 1,250 hours in the prior 12 months. An employer may require the employee to first use available paid leave, and deny unpaid parental leave if (1) necessary to prevent substantial and grievous economic injury to the employer; and (2) the employer advises the employee of the denial prior to the commencement of the leave. During parental leave the employer must maintain existing coverage for a group health plan, and may recover the premium if the employee does not return to work. An employee has a right of action for damages caused by an employer’s noncompliance.