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Coming in 2020: New Employment Protections for Maryland Employees

| July 28, 2020

Maryland has recently passed a series of anti-discrimination laws to protect its workers. In this blog post, we will discuss some of these laws and how they give Maryland employees greater protection from discrimination. The following laws will go into effect on October 1, 2020.

If you want to get a more complete understanding of the rights that Maryland employees enjoy, it’s best to speak with an experienced Maryland employment lawyer. You can do that by reaching out to the Law Firm of J.W. Stafford.

Fighting Unequal Pay in Maryland

When it comes to employment discrimination, one of the more insidious ways in which it hides is with employee pay. All too often marginalized groups, such as women and racial minorities, receive lower pay than they deserve.

There are two primary ways in which employers can perpetuate discriminatory pay. First, they do not allow employees to learn about each other’s wages. It’s pretty hard to know you’re being unfairly paid if you don’t know what a comparable colleague is making.

Second, employers base a new hire’s pay on the new hire’s prior earnings history. This creates a vicious cycle where being underpaid in one job leads to being underpaid in the next job. Maryland passed two laws to tackles these problems.

With HB 14, employers are no longer allowed to punish employees for discussing, disclosing or inquiring about their wages. Basically, employees are now allowed to compare their wages to other employees within their workplace.

Under HB 123, employers cannot force an employee to reveal their wage history. And should the employer learn of the employee’s history of earnings, the employer cannot use that information to decide whether or not to hire the job applicant and if hiring them, how much to pay them. HB 123 also allows job applicants to ask for a range of possible pay when applying for a specific job.

After the employer has already made a job offer, the employer may use prior wage history information voluntarily provided by the job applicant to determine how much more to offer the prospective hire with respect to pay.

Maryland Recognizes Hair Discrimination

Too often, employers have used hair as a means of discriminating against employees. Sometimes, an employer’s grooming policy was a pretext for racial discrimination. Other times, a racially neutral workplace rule on hair had a disproportionate effect on members of a particular race.

Maryland now has HB 1444, which makes hair texture and hairstyle discrimination an illegal form of racial discrimination. Within the context of unlawful racial discrimination, “race” now “includes traits associated with race, including hair texture, afro hairstyles and protective hairstyles.”

Maryland Employers Limited in Use of Facial Recognition During Job Interviews

A new tool in the hiring process is the use of facial recognition technology. Some companies are now using special cameras and artificial intelligence to analyze a job applicant’s facial features, interview behavior and way of talking. The goal is to use this technology to help decide if an applicant should be hired for a particular position.

On paper, this sounds like a good idea for companies who want to make the hiring process as objective as possible and allow interviewers a more efficient way of deciding among prospective candidates.

The problem is that this type of technology can easily lead to discrimination. For instance, an employer might have its own idea of who an ideal candidate is and program it into the artificial intelligence software. However, this programming might include certain biases that could result in unfair or illegal discrimination.                                         

To help prevent this scenario from occurring, Maryland passed HB 1202. This law states that unless the employer obtains consent from the job applicant, the employer may not use facial recognition technology to convert a job applicant’s face into a “machine-interpretable pattern of facial features.”

Want to Learn More About Employee Rights in Maryland? Contact a Maryland Employment Lawyer Today

If you think your employer is discriminating against you, whether it’s due to one of these or any other Maryland or federal employment laws, please contact the Law Firm of J.W. Stafford to speak with a Maryland employment lawyer. Talking to an attorney can give you a much better idea of what you’re dealing with and what you need to do to protect your rights. Call us at 410-514-6099.