In addition to the leave provided by your employer's discretionary policies on vacation time, sick leave, personal days, or paid time off (PTO), you may have a legal right to take time off work for specific reasons under federal and Maryland laws. For example, if you are caring for an ailing family member or recovering from childbirth, you may have a right to leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Maryland law provides additional leave rights, including the right to time off for adoption, to spend with a family member leaving for or returning from military service, voting, and serving on a jury.
This article provides an overview of your right to time off from work in Maryland. For more information, see our page on employee leave rights.
A Maryland law known as the Healthy Working Families Act requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide paid sick leave at the rate of at least one hour for every 30 hours worked, with a cap of 40 hours per year. (Of course, employers can choose to have more generous policies.) Workers can carry over up to 40 hours of accrued leave to the following year.
Sick leave can be used for the following reasons, among others:
Employers with 14 or fewer employees must provide unpaid sick leave at the rate described above, and for the same reasons listed above.
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives eligible employees the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year to care for a seriously ill family member (spouse, parent, or child), recuperate from their own serious health conditions, bond with a new child, or handle certain practical matters arising from a family member's military service. The FMLA also requires employers to give employees up to 26 weeks off to care for a family member who suffered or exacerbated a serious illness or injury while serving in the military. (For purposes of this military family leave provision only, employees may take leave to care for a broader set of family members, including siblings, grandparents, and cousins, if they are next of kin to an injured service member.)
The FMLA applies to employers in all states with at least 50 employees. Employees are eligible only if they have worked for the employer for at least 12 months and have worked 1,250 hours in the 12 months before taking leave. (Learn much more about your rights under the FMLA at our Taking Family and Medical Leave page.)
Some states have created laws that provide employees with leave for family and medical reasons. Sometimes these laws overlap with the FMLA and don't create additional rights. Often, however, state law applies to a wider set of employers, has more relaxed eligibility requirements for employees, or covers a broader set of family members. In Maryland, employees have certain rights to adoption leave and military family leave, in addition to the paid and unpaid sick leave law described above.
All Maryland employers that provide paid parental leave following the birth of a child must make the same leave available to adoptive parents. While this law does not require employers to provide paid parental leave, it does require them to provide equal time off to biological and adoptive parents, if they choose to do so.
Maryland employers with at least 50 employees must allow employees to take one day off when a family member leave for or returns from active military duty outside of the United States. Employees are eligible for this leave if they have worked for the last 12 months, and have worked at least 1,250 hours in the last 12 months, before taking leave.
Another federal law, the Unformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) gives eligible employees the right to be reinstated to their jobs after taking up to five years off for service in the U.S. military. (Find out all about USERRA in Nolo's article, Taking Military Leave.) Employers may not discriminate against employees based on their military service. And, employees may be fired only for good cause for a period of up to one year after they return from service, even if they would otherwise work at will. (See Employment At Will: What Does It Mean? to learn more.)
In Maryland, an employee who is a member of the state National Guard or Maryland Defense Force has the same leave and reinstatement rights guaranteed by USERRA if ordered to military duty. Employers with at least 15 employees must also allow employees who have worked for at least 90 days to take 15 or more days off each year to respond to an emergency mission of the Maryland wing of the Civil Air Patrol. (Employees must provide as much advance notice as possible of the need for this type of leave, and they must contact their employers after arriving at the emergency location to estimate how long the mission will take.) Employees are entitled to reinstatement when they return from leave.
Maryland law gives employees the right to take time off work, without fear of retaliation, for the civic responsibility of voting. Employees must be allowed to take up to two hours off to vote, unless the employee already has at least two consecutive hours off work while the polls are open. This time off must be paid.
Employers must also allow employees to take time off to serve on a jury. Employers may not threaten or coerce an employee who needs time off to serve on a jury. Employees are entitled to take leave for jury service and cannot be required to use their sick leave, vacation time, or paid time off for this purpose. An employee who spends at least four hours (including travel time) on jury duty cannot be required to work a shift that begins on or after 5 p.m. that day, or before 3 a.m. the following day.
Under Maryland law, employers are not required to pay employees for time spent serving on a jury. However, special rules apply to exempt employees. Under federal law, employers typically cannot deduct an exempt, salaried employee's pay for time spent serving on a jury, unless the employee did no work for the entire week. For more information, see our article on pay docking.