Maryland Workers’ Compensation Legislative Updates for 2024

June, 2024  | By Julie D. Murray

Julie MurrayThe Maryland legislature had another active session and passed three bills during the most recent 2024 legislative session. These bills will go into effect either in July 2024 or October 2024.

Below are summaries of these three bills, which will have an impact on employers and insurers.

Overhaul of Industrial Noise-induced Hearing Loss Claims

HB0669/SB0843 will go into effect on October 1, 2024, and overhauls existing workers’ compensation law concerning industrial noise-induced hearing loss claims in response to recent appellate litigation. The new law:

  • Widens frequency requirements
  • Adjusts calculation methods for determining hearing loss percentage
  • Revises offset amounts for age-related nonoccupational deafness claims

By introducing a new assessment threshold of 4,000 hertz, it increases the prior threshold by an additional 1,000 hertz. This means that employers/insurers are now responsible for hearing loss benefits at frequencies of 500, 1,000, 2,000, 3,000, and 4,000 hertz.

The bill also exempts employers from liability for occupational deafness claims when an employee is employed for less than 90 days.

Lastly, it refines nonoccupational hearing loss offset calculations. The newly enacted legislation deducts the lesser of ½ decibel for each year an employee exceeds the age of 50, or for each year following the employee’s last injurious exposure to industrial noise.

While the originally introduced bill also sought to add tinnitus to the classification of hearing loss under Maryland’s Workers’ Compensation Act, this addition was ultimately struck from the bill.

Increased Penalties for Failure to Obtain Workers’ Comp Coverage

SB0216 will go into effect on July 1, 2024, and increases the discretionary penalty for employers who fail to obtain and maintain workers’ compensation insurance coverage or comply with an Order from the Workers’ Compensation Commission mandating that they secure coverage. The previous penalty maximum was $10,000, and SB216 raises that cap to $25,000 for uninsured employers who lack workers’ compensation coverage.

Expansion of Presumption of Compensability

HB0584/SB0476, known as the CAPES (Caring for Public Employees in the Safety Professions) Act, will go into effect October 1, 2024. The Act expands Maryland’s presumption of compensability to account for thyroid, colon, and ovarian cancer.

Current workers’ compensation law presumes that certain public safety individuals sustain a compensable occupational disease simply because of their occupation. This presumption is limited to a particular class of public safety employees, which includes volunteer and career firefighters, firefighting instructors, rescue squad members, advanced life support unit members, and fire marshals employed by designated entities like airport authorities, counties, fire control districts, municipalities, or states. Existing law only extends such a presumption to employees of this specific class when one of the following diseases is alleged: prostate, rectal, throat, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, brain, bladder, kidney or renal cell, testicular, and breast cancer, in addition to leukemia.

If a covered employee within this population of public safety personnel sustains any of the above listed diseases during their employment, then the law further requires that the following criteria be met:

  1. The disease must be caused by a covered employee’s contact with a toxic substance during their employment.
  2. The covered employee must have provided at least 10 years of cumulative service in their respective position.
  3. The disease must result in partial or total disability or death.
  4. Volunteers must have met a suitable standard of physical examination prior to becoming a volunteer.

Once these conditions are met, the covered employee is afforded a presumption of a compensable workers’ compensation claim. Consequently, no additional evidence is required to establish a compensable claim.

Under the newly enacted legislation, thyroid, colon, and ovarian cancer are all added to this class of presumptions, and, should an employee meet the criteria, they will be entitled to this rebuttable presumption for their workers’ compensation claim.

Consideration to Expand Presumption of Compensability to Include PTSD

In addition to these three bills which were passed, the legislature has also referred one bill for an interim study: HB0190/SB1069. This bill would also expand the list of occupational diseases presumed to be work-related for certain public safety employees. The bill aims to provide first responders diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist the presumption that such a disease was sustained in the line of duty, thus rendering it a compensable workers’ compensation claim. Eligible first responders intended to benefit from this bill would include: EMS providers, rescue squad members, firefighters, 911 specialists, law enforcement officers, and correctional officers.

To qualify, however, individuals must produce evidence establishing a PTSD diagnosis, complete at least 2 years of service as a first responder in the state of Maryland, and file their claim either while still employed or within the 18 months immediately following their term of employment.

The results of the interim study will likely guide the legislature going into the 2025 session in reconsidering this bill.

If you have any questions about the information in this update or would like to speak to an experienced Maryland workers’ compensation attorney, contact principal Julie Murray at jmurray@semmes.com.