Maryland Employers Could Face Difficulties Defending Harassment Claims Under New State Laws

The Maryland state legislature has enacted two bills that may make it harder for employers to defend against harassment claims. The two employee-friendly bills, which took effect on October 1, 2022, lowered the legal standard required to establish a harassment claim and extended the period during which a person may file a civil action alleging an unlawful employment practice.

Senate Bill 450 allows employees to establish a claim of harassment based on facts that previously might not have risen to the level of a legally actionable harassment claim. In the past, Maryland courts had applied the “severe and pervasive” standard when evaluating harassment claims, which most jurisdictions traditionally have used.

Under the new legislation, Maryland courts will apply a new “totality of the circumstances” standard, which may permit employees to pursue claims involving less egregious or frequent incidents of harassment than under the prior standard. The new standard also may make it more challenging for employers to win dismissals of harassment claims and easier for aggrieved employees to prevail.

Additionally, SB 450 alters the definition of “harassment” to specifically include sexual harassment and mandates sexual harassment prevention training for state government employees.

Senate Bill 451 tolls all time limitations on bringing civil actions on claims of unlawful employment practices while administrative charges are pending. In other words, it expands the timeframe during which employees must file civil lawsuits based on unlawful employment practices based on the administrative charge process. As a result, employer defenses based on timeliness may be weaker.

HBL has experience in all areas of benefits and employment law, offering a comprehensive solution to all your business benefits and HR/employment needs. We help ensure you are in compliance with the complex requirements of ERISA and the IRS code, as well as those laws that impact you and your employees. Together, we reduce your exposure to potential legal or financial penalties. Learn more by calling 470-571-1007.

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Hall Benefits Law, LLC

HBL offers employers comprehensive legal guidance on benefits in mergers and acquisitions, Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs), executive compensation, health and welfare benefits, healthcare reform, and retirement plans. We counsel a wide spectrum of clients including small, mid-sized, and large companies, 401(k) investment advisors, health insurance brokers, accountants, attorneys, and HR consultants, just to name a few. HBL is passionate about advising clients, and we are dedicated to our mission: to provide comprehensive, personalized, and practical ERISA and benefits legal solutions that exceed client expectations.

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