Starting October 1, 2014, small employers in Maryland (those employing 15-49 employees) will be required to provide employees with unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child under the Maryland Parental Leave Act (“MPLA”). Pursuant to the MPLA, eligible employees are entitled to six workweeks of unpaid parental leave during any 12-month period for the birth of the employee’s child or the placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care.
To be eligible for MPLA leave, an employee must have been employed for at least 12 months and have worked 1,250 hours prior to the start of the leave. Additionally, the employee must be employed at a work location in Maryland at which at least 15 employees work within a 75-mile radius in Maryland. Employees eligible for MPLA leave may also be eligible for leave under the FMLA when their Maryland worksite is within 75 miles of a work location outside of Maryland, and the FMLA threshold of 50 employees is met between the two locations. Although not expressly addressed in the MPLA, it is likely that the employee’s MPLA leave and FMLA leave for the birth or adoption of a child would run concurrently.
An employer may require that an employee give at least 30 days’ notice of the need for leave; however, such notice is not required in the case of a premature birth or an unexpected adoption or placement for foster care. An employer may deny requested leave only if the denial is necessary to prevent “substantial and grievous economic injury” to its operations, provided that the employer notifies the employee of the denial before the leave begins.
An employer may require an employee to substitute any accrued, paid time off for unpaid parental leave. At the conclusion of MPLA leave, the employee must be restored to his or her previous position or to an equivalent position with equivalent benefits, pay, and “other terms and conditions of employment.” An employer may deny job restoration rights only if:
- the denial is necessary to prevent substantial and grievous economic injury to the operations of the employer;
- the employer notifies the employee of the intent to deny restoration at the time it determines that economic injury would occur; and
- where the leave has already begun, the employee elects not to return to employment after receiving notice.
Finally, an employer may only terminate an employee on MPLA leave “for cause.”