COVID-19 has certainly not slowed down legislators in Annapolis. Far from sitting idle, the Maryland General Assembly recently passed a broad array of workplace legislation without the governor’s signature. In addition to a significant expansion of Maryland’s Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, three new employment laws are set
Articles Discussing Maryland Wage & Hour Issues.
Recently, the Maryland Court of Appeals took the position, albeit in dicta, that the state’s Wage Payment and Collection Law reflects a “strong” public policy of Maryland and urged Maryland courts to reject as unenforceable any future out-of-state forum selection provisions contained in employment agreements. While just one decision, employers with Maryland-based employees should review any such provisions in their agreements. Moreover, it also serves as a reminder that every employer with multi-state operations (even different states of incorporation and principal places of business) should carefully consider forum selection clauses when drafting or revising employment agreements. This is not just “boilerplate” that you throw in at the end of the agreement.
Executive Summary: On August 13, 2014, the Maryland Court of Appeals held in Peters v. Early Healthcare Giver, Inc. that unpaid overtime wages are recoverable under the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law (MWPCL or “Wage Payment Act”). The ruling increases the potential liability for Maryland employers who misclassify their employees as exempt under the Maryland Wage and Hour Law (MWHL) and the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Employees who prove an entitlement to overtime pay can now seek an award of treble damages or three times the amount owed to them in unpaid overtime wages. Although an employer can avoid a treble damages award by proving that there was a good faith “bona fide dispute” over the validity of the employee’s overtime claim, the court in Peters held that the employer has the burden of proof on the “bona fide dispute” issue.
On August 13, 2014, the Maryland Court of Appeals held in Peters v. Early Healthcare Giver, Inc. that employers can be held liable under the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law (“Wage Payment Law” or MWPCL) for all overtime violations, including allegations of misclassification under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Maryland Wage and Hour Law (MW&HL). This holding by the state’s highest court is a clear departure from current law. Accordingly, this decision has significant ramifications for Maryland businesses because: (1) it increases potential liability in that the law allows employees to receive up to treble damages, assuming no “bona fide dispute” exists; and (2) the court held that the burden of proving a “bona fide dispute” falls on the employer, and not the employee. On the other hand, the court held also that an award of up to treble damages does not mean an aggrieved employee receives the principal unpaid wages plus three times that amount, and that a fact-finder is not required to award enhanced damages, even in the absence of good faith.