MARYLAND’S HIGHEST COURT AGREES THAT WORKERS MUST BE PAID FOR ALL THE TIME THEIR EMPLOYERS REQUIRE OF THEM

in Labor & Employment July 14th, 2022

GREENBELT, MD., July 14, 2022 – Yesterday, in a victory for Maryland workers, the Maryland Court of Appeals held that workers in Maryland have greater protections than under a 1940s-era federal law, and must be paid for all of their hours worked.  Explaining the circumstances, the Court stated that the State’s wage and hour law “means what it says,” and that workers, represented by Joseph Greenwald & Laake, are entitled to compensation from the time they are “required by the employer to be on the employer’s premises, on duty or at a prescribed workplace.”

In an expansive 59 page opinion, the Court meticulously reviewed two cases of laborers working for different subcontractors on the construction of the MGM Grand Hotel.  In those cases, “the workers accessed the construction site via buses, supplied by the general contractor for the project, that took them from the parking area to the construction site and back. The workers were not compensated for wait and travel time, either coming or going from the parking area, which in total averaged approximately two hours per day.”  Workers were told that this was the only way they could get onsite, and that they could be fired for reporting to work any other way.  The question in both cases was whether the time spent assembling at the parking area as required by their employer, and being bussed to the construction site, constituted “work” compensable under Maryland’s wage and hour law.  The lower courts applied federal law and dismissed the cases, but the Court of Appeals reversed in a 7-0 decision, concluding that Maryland law was not so restrictive, and that whether the workers were entitled to compensation for the time their employers required them to spend in transit, was a matter for the jury to decide.

“This was a tremendous victory for Maryland workers.  When the boss tells workers to do something, even outside of their regular duties, they are working, and now they will get paid,” said Brian Markovitz, a Principal at JGL who represented the workers. 

“Maryland’s highest court has issued a decision that is fundamentally fair to all concerned,” said attorney Steven Pavsner, who argued the case on behalf of Mr. Amaya.   “Employers cannot reasonably expect to benefit from free labor, and workers cannot reasonably be expected to work for free.” 

“This ruling sends a clear message to Maryland workers: your time is valuable.  Maryland took a stand to protect the health and welfare of workers by crafting its wage and hour laws to prevent corporations from demanding their workers’ time but not paying for it, ” said Erika Jacobsen White, Principal at JGL and co-author of the briefing.

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