SB 781 Displaced Building Service Workers Protection Act

March 3, 2011


The Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, as the voice of Montgomery County business, opposes SB 781 requiring owners, property managers, and successor contractors for the provision of building services within a 75,000 square foot commercial building or office park to retain the service employees for 90 days, and thereafter on the basis of a satisfactory performance evaluation. Building service contracts entered into with private entities and governments are subject to the employee retention mandate.  Schools, hospitals, nursing homes, airports, museums, convention centers and like buildings are impacted.

SB 781 abrogates the doctrine of at will employment which allows employers to terminate an employee at any time, for any reason, or no reason.  Employees protections outside of a collective bargaining agreement have been limited to circumstances where employees were discharged for exercising certain public responsibilities (jury duty) or statutory rights (civil rights protections). 

SB 781 puts the interests of the predecessor contractor's employees ahead of the successor contractor's employees.  Favoring one group of employees over another should not be sanctioned by Maryland law.  The legislation mirrors protections provided through the collective bargaining process, despite the fact that, in this instance, there is no negotiation between an employer and a union.

The list of job positions covered by the legislation is more expansive than that specifically listed and includes workers who earn as much as $30.00 per hour. 

  • Reductions in force are based only on seniority which is a union concept not otherwise recognized in a non-union environment.
  • The preferential hiring list to be used for hiring additional employees is cumbersome in that it requires an employer to locate employees not previously retained for the purpose of rehiring first.  The preferential hiring requirement does not specify that the individual must be hired back within his or her prior job classification which could require a window cleaner to be hired as a security officer.
  • There is no definition of what constitutes "just cause."  A reduction in force should be recognized as a "just cause" termination.
  • Retention of employees beyond the initial 90-days is required on the basis of a "satisfactory" performance evaluation.  Again, the at will employment doctrine is being abrogated not just during the transition period, but permanently within the building services industry.

We are unaware of any circumstances that would justify abrogating the doctrine of at will employment.  For these reasons, we request an unfavorable report on SB 781.

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