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October 2022: Maryland Expands Anti-Discrimination Laws

27 Oct

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Update Applicable to:
All employers in the state of Maryland.

What happened?
On October 1, 2022, the state of Maryland passed Senate Bill 450 (SB 450), introducing three new laws that vastly expand the state’s anti-discrimination protections.

What are the details?
Effective October 1, 2022, SB 450 lowers the standard for individuals to prove harassment and sexual harassment under Maryland law. Previously, Maryland law adopted Title VII of the Civil Rights Act’s standard of harassment, which required individuals to prove harassment by showing that there was unwelcome conduct based on a protected class and that:

  1. Enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment; or
  2. The conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.

However, this Act explicitly rejects the “severe and pervasive” standard. Under the Act, harassment is defined as unwelcome and offensive conduct, which need not be severe or pervasive, when the conduct is based on a protected class, and:

  • Submission to the conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of employment of an individual;
  • Submission to or rejection of the conduct is used as a basis for employment decisions affecting the individual; or
  • The conduct unreasonably creates a working environment that a reasonable person would perceive to be abusive or hostile, considering the totality of the circumstances.

The definition of sexual harassment is similar and rejects the “severe and pervasive standard.” By removing the “severe and pervasive” requirement, Maryland law makes it easier for individuals to prove that they were subjected to harassment.

This Act amends Maryland’s anti-discrimination law to require employers to provide applicants for employment with reasonable accommodations for their disabilities absent undue hardship. Previously, while the federal Americans with Disabilities Act required employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees and applicants, Maryland law only required employers to provide employees with accommodations. Maryland employers with 15 or more employees will also have to provide accommodations to applicants with disabilities unless the accommodations impose an undue hardship on the employer.

This Act also tolls the statute of limitations for individuals to file a civil action alleging an unlawful employment practice under Maryland law while an administrative charge or complaint is pending. Previously, Maryland law required individuals that wanted to file a civil action alleging an unlawful employment practice to:

  1. Timely file an administrative charge or complaint under federal, state, or local law; and
    1. File a lawsuit within 2 years after the alleged unlawful practice occurred or, for harassment allegations, within 3 years after the alleged harassment occurred.

Individuals were required to file a lawsuit by the applicable statute of limitations, regardless of whether their administrative charge or complaint was pending. Now, the time for individuals to file lawsuits is stayed while their administrative charge or complaint is pending, giving individuals more time to file a lawsuit for an alleged unlawful employment practice under Maryland law.

For more information, please see the links below:

Senate Bill 450 (SB 450)

Article

What do employers need to do?
Employers should consider revising employment policies or handbooks to incorporate the new harassment definitions and provide reasonable accommodations for applicants.

Need help understanding how changes to employment laws will affect your business?

Learn more about how Vensure's Maryland PEO services can help you navigate complex employment laws and keep your business compliant.


This communication is intended solely for the purpose of conveying information. The present post might incorporate hyperlinks directing readers to websites managed by third-party entities. The inclusion of any links within this communication is meant to serve as points of reference and could encompass opinion articles from various law firms, articles from HR associations, official websites, news releases, and documents of government agencies, and other relevant third-party sources. Vensure has no authority over these external websites and bears no responsibility for their content. Furthermore, Vensure does not endorse the materials present on these websites. The contents of this communication should not be interpreted as legal advice or as a legal standpoint concerning specific facts or scenarios. Nor should it be deemed an exhaustive compilation of facts potentially pertinent to federal, state, or local laws. It is strongly advised that employers solicit legal guidance from an employment attorney when undertaking actions in response to any legal updates provided. This is due to the possibility of future alterations occurring in federal, state, and local laws, regulations, as well as the directives and guidelines issued by governing agencies. These changes may transpire at any given time, potentially rendering certain portions of the content within this update void or inaccurate.

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