On November 27, 2012, in Scott v. Merck & Company, Inc.,1 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed a jury verdict of more than $500,000 in favor of Jennifer Scott, a former Merck & Co., Inc. employee. The appeals court concluded that the trial court erred in permitting Scott to argue that the company’s non-retaliation policy included an enforceable promise not to terminate her employment. Specifically, the appeals court ruled that Scott could not reasonably have believed that the non-retaliation policy included a promise of continued employment, given the express at-will disclaimers contained in the employee handbook in which the non-retaliation policy appeared.
Articles Discussing General Topics In Maryland Labor & Employment Law.
The 430th legislative session of the Maryland General Assembly resulted in several new laws and amendments to existing laws that affect employers. We summarize the more noteworthy legislation in this article. All laws are effective October 1, 2012, unless otherwise noted.
Maryland has become the first state to pass a bill, the User Name and Password Privacy Protection Act (SB 433/HB 964) (the “Act”), that bans employers from asking employees and applicants for social media passwords and login information. Specifically, the bill would prohibit an employer from taking or threatening any form of adverse action based on an employee’s or applicant’s refusal to provide a user name or password to a personal account accessed through a communications device. Governor Martin O’Malley likely will sign the bill into law in May 2012.
Under a bill passed by both houses of the Maryland General Assembly, employers in Maryland would be prohibited from demanding from employees and job applicants the usernames, passwords or other means to access personal accounts or service through an electronic communication device (e.g., computer and phone) for social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn. The bill, S.B. 433, introduced by Senator Ronald Young, passed unanimously in the Senate and by a vote of 128-10 in the House. It is awaiting the signature of Governor Martin Oâ€™Malley. It would become effective October 1, 2012.
On December 23, 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Kunda v. C.R. Bard, Inc. held that employers in Maryland may have their employees execute employment agreements with a choice of law provision other than Maryland, so long as the other jurisdiction has a â€œsubstantial relationshipâ€ to the parties and the application of the law would not be contrary to a fundamental Maryland public policy. This case settles the issue, at least for now, of whether an employee who works in Maryland has a fundamental right to sue for wages under the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law (â€œMWPCLâ€) â€“ generally a law favorable to employees.
In a dramatic change for Maryland employers, the stateâ€™s new Job Applicant Fairness Act will significantly limit their use of an individualâ€™s credit history report for hiring and making other employment-related decisions. No previous state restrictions existed on employersâ€™ obtaining and using this information. The Act was signed by the Governor on April 12 and will become effective on October 1, 2011.
Under Marylandâ€™s Healthy Retail Employee Act, Maryland employers who operate â€œretail establishmentsâ€ must provide non-exempt retail employees with break periods based on the length of the shifts the employees work. Employers in violation of the Act will face a fine.