There's a new petitioner in town: the Maryland employer.
Last year, the General Assembly of Maryland adjourned on April 12, 2021, having just passed a bill with beneficial implications for Maryland employers and their employees.
House Bill 289 gives, for the very first time, Maryland employers standing to file for and obtain restraining orders, called Peace Orders, on behalf of their employees. The new law, which went into effect on October 1, 2021, is an important development for Maryland employers, particularly those in high-risk industries. It provides them with a means to protect and support their employees when violence is likely to occur at the workplace — often because it was threatened or implied by behavior — or has already occurred and may reoccur.
Under the new law, a Maryland employer may seek a restraining order if an employee suffers an enumerated act — such as assault, harassment, or stalking — at the workplace. "Among those with higher risk are workers who exchange money with the public, delivery drivers, healthcare professionals, public service workers, customer service agents, law enforcement personnel, and those who work alone or in small groups." (U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Health and Safety Administration, Workplace Violence, January 14, 2022)
An employer has 30 days from the occurrence to file for the restraining order and must notify the victimized employee before doing so.
After a hearing, if a judge finds the offender committed the act and is likely to commit the act again against the employee, the court may issue a Peace Order. The Peace Order may include ordering the offender to refrain from committing the act again against the employee, contacting the employee, entering the employee’s residence, and/or entering the employee's workplace. Violation of a Peace Order is a crime.
An employer may not retaliate against its employee for failing to provide information for, or refusing to testify at, the proceeding on the Peace Order.
Incidents of domestic violence at the workplace are not covered under the new law. Under those circumstances, employees would have to, independently and under their own discretion, file for another type of restraining order called a Protective Order.
The new law also provides employers with immunity from civil liability that may result from the failure to seek Peace Orders on behalf of their employees. Interestingly, as the law stands, the immunity provision will "sunset" (be repealed) in two years unless an amendment is adopted by the General Assembly that eliminates the "sunset" or extends it before the two years elapses.
If you are interested in scheduling a presentation for your organization or its leadership regarding the new law, please contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org or (410) 783-4048. Jared is a partner with Goodell, DeVries, Leech & Dann, LLP and a former prosecutor.