Maryland has recently enacted three new laws aimed at strengthening and clarifying the state’s existing protections against employment discrimination and workplace harassment. All three laws amend the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act (MFEPA), which applies to employers with 15 or more employees, and go into effect on Oct. 1, 2022.
Reasonable Accommodations for Applicants
The first new law, House Bill 78, expands the state’s existing requirement for employers to provide reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities. Under the current FEPA, accommodations are only required for the known disability of an “otherwise qualified employee.” Effective Oct. 1, 2022, the requirement also applies to the known disability of any job applicant, regardless of whether the applicant is qualified for the position sought. However, employers do not have to accommodate any employee or applicant’s disability if they can prove that no accommodation can be made without causing undue hardship to the conduct of their business.
Expanded Definition of Harassment
The second new law, Senate Bill 450, expands the MFEPA’s definition of harassment to include “sexual harassment” and “unwelcome and offensive conduct.” It also specifies circumstances under which conduct would be unlawful even if it is not severe or pervasive.
Clarified Time Limits for Harassment Lawsuits
Senate Bill 451 clarifies that the MFEPA’s existing time limits for individuals to file lawsuits against employers do not run while an administrative action for the same conduct is pending. In general, the MFEPA allows up to three years for lawsuits alleging harassment and two years for lawsuits alleging other types of discrimination.