Division of Labor and Industry


Employment Assistance - Wage and Hour Fact Information


Setting the Terms of Employment

In the absence of a specific contract of employment limiting such action (and with due regard to the limitations imposed under applicable child labor laws), an employer may require an employee to work overtime, to work on holidays, to work at night, or to perform extra or different duties than the employee was originally hired to perform, as the need may arise for the employer. An employer may also treat one employee differently than other employees, such as by providing compensation at a different rate of pay. As in the case of employment termination, however, the power to do these things is limited by the prohibition against illegal discrimination/retaliation discussed in the section above. Although sometimes appearing unfair to an affected employee, such practices are not necessarily illegal.

Employment At-Will: Termination of Employment

In Maryland, employees work "at the will" of their employers. This means, in the absence of an express contract, agreement or policy to the contrary, an employee may be hired or fired for almost any reason -- whether fair or not -- or for no reason at all. There are certain exceptions to this general rule which provide some protection to employees from illegal discrimination based on such categories as race, color, gender, national origin, religion, age, disability or marital status. Examples of other employment at-will exceptions include laws which protect employees from termination or retaliation for filing workers' compensation claims, for attempting to enforce rights to receive overtime or the minimum wage, for asserting rights to work in a safe and healthy workplace, for refusing to commit criminal acts, for reporting for jury duty or military service, or for being subject to a wage attachment for any one indebtedness. Terminating an employee for any of these specific reasons may constitute a violation under the applicable State or federal law.

Wages and Compensation - Unused Vacation and Sick Leave at Termination -- Is It Payable?

Vacation - The answer to this question depends on the employer's written policy, and whether this policy was communicated to the employee at the time of hiring. For example, if an employer informs employees in writing at the time of hiring that unused vacation leave will be lost or forfeited upon termination, then an employee will not be able to claim it. On the other hand, where the employer does not have a written policy that limits the compensation for accrued leave to a terminated employee, that employee is entitled to the cash value of whatever unused earned vacation leave was left -- provided it was otherwise usable.

Sick - Because sick leave is generally meant to be used in the case of sickness or for medical attention, its use is limited to those situations. Sick leave is therefore a contingency against illness, and cannot be claimed at termination in the same manner as unused vacation leave, unless expressly allowed in a contract or an employer's policy.

Breaks, Benefits and Days Off

There is no law requiring an employer to provide breaks, including lunch breaks, unless the employee is under the age of 18. Minors under 18 must receive a 30 minute break for every 5 hours of work. In addition, state law does not guarantee days off for holidays or any special holiday pay for private sector employees, except an unpaid religious day of rest each week for retail employees who give prior written notice to their employers. * Maryland law does not require the award of benefits. Examples include vacation leave, sick leave, compensatory time, holidays and holiday pay, health and life insurance, bonuses, severance pay, etc. The right to claim benefits only arises through a prior agreement of the parties

Where to Find Help

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