Changes to Maryland’s Sexual Harassment Laws
A person typically has to work 40 hours per week. Given that they spend so much time away from home, they should be able to work in an environment that is free of harassment and hostility. However, many are subject to offensive behavior, such as sexually suggestive letters, lewd comments and jokes, sexual anecdotes, sexual gestures, staring, whistling and inappropriate touching.
Sexual harassment is against the law at the federal level, but many states are also creating their own laws to protect workers and hold employers liable for their actions. Maryland is one of them, and there are new changes to the state law as of October 1, 2019. Employers and employees in the state should understand the changes so they can avoid being accused or convicted of such a crime.
What Are the Changes?
One of the biggest changes to the law is that not only are employees covered under the law, but so are independent contractors. This means that if a company is using freelancers to work on certain projects, they can file sexual harassment lawsuits as well.
Another huge change is that the definition of an employer is now updated to include any company that has at least one employee. In the past, an employer was defined as a company with 15 or more employees, so now even small businesses with a sole employee may be subject to sexual harassment claims.
Also, the harassment does not have to be sexual in nature. It may be based on other factors, such as race, color, ancestry, religion, marital status, age, disability, gender identity or sexual orientation.
The new law also makes the employer is liable for sexual harassment committed by an employee’s supervisor. Therefore, if the employer knew about the harassment, but ignored it or allowed it to continue, then the employer could be sued.
A victim of sexual harassment in the workplace now has a longer period of time to file a claim. If filing a complaint with the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights, a person has two years from the date of the alleged harassment to do so, increased from the previous time period of six months. The law also extends the period for filing a civil lawsuit from two years to three years.
Preparing for the Changes
Employers should prepare by reviewing their employee handbooks and company policies and ensuring that they include an anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policy. It is important that employees and employers understand the new laws and obligations. Therefore, it is wise to invest in workplace harassment training to avoid any misunderstandings and confusion.
Contact a Maryland Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
Sexual harassment can happen anywhere, but it is especially prevalent in the workplace. The laws have recently been expanded, so make sure you are aware of what is prohibited as well as the implications.
Sex crimes are punished harshly. Protect yourself and your future by contacting a Columbia sex crime attorney at the Law Offices of Todd K. Mohink, P.A. He can provide you with a solid defense. Schedule a free consultation by filling out the online form or calling (410) 774-5987.