Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley has signed the Healthy Retail Employee Act, requiring retail establishments with 50 or more employees to provide certain breaks for employees.

The Act will be effective March 1, 2011, so employers should update their break policies as soon as possible.

The duration of the required, nonworking breaks varies based on the number of hours worked:

  • Four to six consecutive hours requires a 15-minute break

  • More than six consecutive hours requires a 30-minute break

  • Eight consecutive hours requires an additional 15-minute break for every four consecutive hours worked beyond the eight hours

In some situations, covered employees and employers may waive the Act's requirements by written agreement. The Act also has several exclusions. Specifically, it does not apply to:

  • Wholesalers

  • Restaurants

  • Employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement or employment policy that includes shift breaks equal to or greater than those provided by the Act

  • Employees who are exempt from overtime pay requirements

  • Employees of a unit of the state, a county, or municipality

  • Employees who work in a corporate office

  • Employees who work for at least four consecutive hours for an employer at a single location with five or fewer employees

An employee may file a complaint of violations with the Commissioner of Labor and Industry. If a violation is found, the Commissioner may assess the employer a civil penalty of $300 to $600 per employee. The Commissioner may also sue an employer upon continued non-compliance. In certain circumstances, an employee may sue the employer and, if successful, be awarded three times the value of his or her hourly wage for each break violation and attorneys' fees. 

Attorneys in Ballard Spahr's Labor and Employment Group are prepared to answer your questions and assist you in writing and reviewing policies to address the new requirements.

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