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Maryland “Healthy Retail Employee Act”

Author: Ronald E. Lyons Date: 03/03/2011

Categories: Corporate and Business Law, Employment Law & Litigation

Effective March 1, 2011, the Maryland Healthy Retail Employee Act (“Act”) went into effect. The new law requires retailers to provide their employees with mandatory shift breaks depending upon the number of hours worked. The Act applies to employers engaged in a retail business or retail franchise having the same trade name with 50 or more retail employees. For purposes of the Act, a retail establishment is defined 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.”

The duration of the nonworking break required under the Act varies based on the number of hours worked:

  • Four to six consecutive hours requires a 15 minute shift break.
  • More than six consecutive hours requires a 30 minute shift break.
  • Eight consecutive hours requires an additional 15 minute shift break for every four consecutive hours worked beyond the eight hours.

The Act does not apply to wholesalers or restaurants. In addition, certain other employees are exempt from the Act including:

  1. Employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement;
  2. Employees exempt from overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act such as executives, administrative and professional employees;
  3. Employees engaged in outside sales;
  4. Commissioned employees;
  5. Employees who work in a corporate office and
  6. Employees who work at a single location with five or fewer employees.

The Act also provides for a “working shift break” if the employee’s work prevents him/her from being relieved during the shift break, or where the employee is allowed to consume a meal while working and is paid. Either of these two situations must be mutually agreed upon in writing between employer and employee.

Violation of the Act will subject the employer to fines by the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation up to $300 for each employee who does not receive the mandated shift break, with the possibility of fines increasing for repeat violations to $600 for each affected employee.

Affected Maryland retailers should review and amend their employee manuals to confirm that their policies are in compliance with the Act. Moreover, affected employers will need to implement systems to affirmatively track employee work shifts and maintain documentation to establish that employees were provided with the required break.