By: Paul McGee on October 30th, 2019

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New Organ Donation Leave Law is Getting Attention in Maryland

Total Rewards | Risk Management

Maryland’s new employment laws took effect on October 1, 2019, and one law that seems to have caught people’s attention is the new Organ Donation Leave law.

This new law, HB 1284, requires most private employers in the state of Maryland to provide unpaid leave for employees serving as organ or bone marrow donors.

Employers with at least 15 employees working in Maryland are required to provide eligible employees with:

  • up to 60 business days of unpaid leave (in any 12-month period) to serve as an organ donor, and

  • up to 30 business days of unpaid leave (in any 12-month period) to serve as a bone marrow donor.

To be eligible, the employee must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months and at least 1,250 hours during the previous 12 months.

According to Joy Einstein, a partner in the Employment and Labor Law Practice Group at Potomac’s Shulman Rogers Law Firm, this could have a tremendously positive effect on encouraging many more employees in Maryland to donate organs or bone marrow. “Those in need of an organ often face oppressive waitlists and even pass away while unsuccessfully searching for organ donors.” Einstein added, “Many also speculate that this will have minimal impact on the business community. The leave is unpaid, meaning that employers should experience minimal fiscal impact. Organ and bone marrow donation are not frequent events so it is not expected that many employers in Maryland will be impacted.”

On the flip side, here is another new labor law to add to the list of labor laws that small employers in Maryland must comply with. That list includes the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act (often referred to as Sick and Safe law), higher minimum wages than other states, and now organ donation. “There is always a risk that this new law will be seen as just one more reason why new businesses should open up in Virginia (which does not have a similar organ/bone marrow leave law for private employers) instead of Maryland," said Einstein.

Organ donation leave may not be taken concurrently with leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. For that reason, some business owners in Maryland are speculating that maybe the law could have a greater financial impact than first thought. According to Einstein, “This could mean that if an employee is unable to return to work at the expiration of his/her organ or bone marrow donation leave due to ongoing health concerns, the employee could then be eligible to take up to 12 additional weeks of FMLA leave. This would mean that a small business could be without an employee for quite some time, or face hiring a replacement, who may have to be let go once the employee on organ/bone marrow donation leave returns.”

Other new, mostly employee-friendly, labor laws that also took effect in Maryland on October 1, 2019:

  • Expanded protections under anti-discrimination law
  • Additional civil penalties for equal pay violations
  • A non-compete law for low-wage employees
  • Minimum wage increases that go up every year through 2026 and,
  • New restrictions on criminal background checks.