Maryland Legislature passes bill to raise minimum wage to $10.10 by July 1, 2018

by David M. Stevens

On the final day of its legislative session, the Maryland General Assembly passed a bill to dramatically raise the state’s minimum wage. The bill, which was supported by Governor Martin O’Malley and is expected to be signed into law, calls for a staggered increase in the minimum wage over a period of four years, with the final increase due to set the minimum wage at $10.10 effective July 1, 2018.

Employers will first feel the effect of the minimum wage increase on January 1, 2015, and the minimum wage will increase a total of five times under the following schedule:

January 1, 2015                   $8

July 1, 2015                          $8.25

July 1, 2016                          $8.75

July 1, 2017                          $9.25

July 1, 2018                          $10.10

The new legislation, which amends Maryland’s Wage and Hour Law, includes a provision allowing certain employers to pay employees under 20 years of age less than the minimum wage during the first six months of employment, provided the wage paid is at least 85 percent of the state minimum wage then in effect.

The law also contains a provision that holds at $3.63 per hour the required cash wage for employees paid based on the tip credit.

In addition to the minimum wage increase, the new law will amend several of the Wage and Hour Law’s coverage provisions. Notable changes include increasing the minimum annual revenue a restaurant must generate to be subject to the state minimum wage and overtime requirements from $250,000 to $400,000.

Finally, the new legislation bolsters the economic incentive for employees and their counsel to pursue claims under the Wage and Hour Law by increasing the recovery available to employees who establish a violation of the minimum wage or overtime provisions. Currently, the Wage and Hour Law provides for recovery only of the unpaid minimum wage or overtime amount and grants courts the discretion to direct the employer to pay the attorneys’ fees incurred by a successful employee in pursuing her claim.

The new amendments to the Wage and Hour Law provide for an automatic award of attorneys’ fees in the event an employee establishes a violation and further provide for an award of liquidated damages equal to the unpaid wage amount unless the employer can show that it believed in good faith that all amounts due under the Wage and Hour Law had been paid.

These changes have the effect of bringing the enforcement mechanism under the Wage and Hour Law largely in line with that of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, thereby making the Maryland statute a more attractive vehicle for employees seeking to pursue minimum wage and overtime claims.

David M. Stevens is an associate with Whiteford, Taylor & Preston L.L.P. and a contributor to Maryland Employment Law Letter. You can reach him at dstevens@wtplaw.com.

About Maryland Employment Law Letter:
Excerpted from Maryland Employment Law Letter written by attorneys at the law firm of Whiteford, Taylor & Preston L.L.P. MARYLAND EMPLOYMENT LAW LETTER is not intended to provide legal advice or opinions, but rather to provide information about current developments in Maryland employment law. Questions about individual problems should be addressed to legal counsel. Contact the attorneys at Whiteford, Taylor & Preston L.L.P.
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1 COMMENTS

1 Justin
10:08:38, 11/04/14

I know every state is scrambling to be able to say they were ahead of the curve by being one of the first states to jump on the whole increased minimim wage bandwagon, but something about this seems a bit backwards to me. Doesn’t it set a disturbing prescident to reward unskilled workers with a higher wage? Shouldn’t the incentive to earn more money be to study hard and get a good education so you can take the lead on orchestrating a vibrant career path, so then you wouldn’t have to settle for scraping along at an undesirable job at Big Lots or flipping burgers? These jobs are fine for teenagers – it’s not what you aspire to as a way to make a living in life.

And I know layoffs happen, people become widowed or someone’s significant other leaves them or whatever; that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about people who deliberately pop out child after child because they feel it’s their right to have a big family; then wonder why they’re having such a difficult time scrambling to make ends meet, and end up expecting their employer to foot the bill because of the lifestyle choices they’ve made.

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