Governor O’Malley recently signed into law the “Healthy Retail Employee Act,” which mandates that some Maryland employers provide paid work breaks to certain retail employees.
Which employers are covered?
The law applies to retail establishments that employ 50 or more employees, or businesses that own one or more franchises operating under the same trade name that cumulatively employ more than 50 employees in Maryland. A retail establishment is defined by the law as a “place or business with the primary purpose of selling goods to a consumer who is present at the place of business at the time of sale.” Wholesalers and restaurants are exempted from the law.
What Type Of Break Must Be Provided?
Generally, a non-working shift break must be provided. The length of the required break varies based on the number of hours worked:
If the employee’s shift does not exceed six consecutive hours, the 15-minute break may be waived by written agreement between the employee and employer.
Working shift breaks may be provided instead of non-working breaks if the employer and the employee mutually agree in writing to the working shift break, and either:
Which employees are protected by the law?
Employees who work for covered retail employers are protected, except that the following employees are not covered under the law:
What Are The Penalties For Violation?
Employees may file a complaint with the Commissioner of Labor and Industry. If the Commissioner determines that there has been a violation, he my issue an order compelling compliance. At the Commissioner’s discretion, he may asses a civil penalty of up to $300 for each employee for whom the employer is not in compliance with the law, or up to $600 per employee, if there have been repeat violations within three years of the Commissioner finding a prior violation of the law by the employer. Employers may appeal the finding of a violation or assessment of a fine under the State’s administrative procedures act. If the employer fails to comply with a final order of the Commissioner, the Commissioner may bring an action in circuit court to enforce the order.
Under certain circumstances where there has been a repeat violation concerning the same employee, the employee may also file suit. If the employee prevails, he/she may be entitled to three times the hourly wage for each shift break violation of the law and reasonable attorney’s fees.
When Does The Law Become Effective?
The new break requirements become effective on March 1, 2011.
If you have any questions regarding this new law, please contact Chuck Bacharach or Bob Kellner in the Employment Law Group.