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If you are a Maryland employee in the private sector, and you do not have a collective bargaining agreement or an individual employment contract, you are an employee at will.  This means that your employer may terminate your employment at any time, with any reason, so long as that reason is not illegal.  This page provides some of the laws that forbid termination of employment for reasons such as discrimination, retaliation for raising discrimination issues, or retaliation for filing a workers' compensation claim. Most of the laws listed below also prohibit retaliation for seeking to enforce the protected rights.

Useful Links

Filing a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Filing a Charge of Discrimination with the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights


Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws and State Counterparts

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids discrimination in the terms and conditions of employment based on a person's race, sex, color, national origin, or religion.  

Maryland law on discrimination and retaliation is similar to federal law in many respects, but allows an employee to sue in state court. The State of Maryland and certain Maryland counties have similar statutes, some of which prohibit discrimination on other bases, including marital status, sexual orientation, genetic information, or disability unrelated in nature and extent so as to reasonably preclude the performance of the employment, or because of the individual's refusal to submit to a genetic test or make available the results of a genetic test.

Maryland State Government Article, section 20-606

Like the federal law, the state law applies to employers of fifteen or more full-time employees; in some counties the threshold is lower.  Also like the federal law, employees are required to file a charge of discrimination with an administrative agency, such as the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Sexual Harassment - Is actionable under Title VII, as well as state and local statutes, even in the absence of economic harm to the employee or a demand for sexual favors ("quid pro quo" harassment) if the employer maintains a "hostile or offensive environment" in the workplace.

Similarly, harassment motivated by a person’s religion, race, disability, national origin or other protected category is actionable under Title VII or the Maryland or local laws.

Harassment alone, without a connection to one of the civil rights categories, is not illegal.

42 U.S.C. Section 1981- Prohibits race discrimination in various contexts, including the making and enforcement of contracts, including employment agreements written or otherwise.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibits discrimination with respect to the terms and conditions of employment against persons who are at least 40 years of age.  Exceptions exist for bona fide occupational qualifications and reasonable business factors other than age, among other things.

The Maryland version does not have limit its protections to workers of a certain age. Discrimination against people because they are too young violates Maryland law.

The Americans with Disabilities Act  prohibits discrimination in all aspects of private employment against disabled persons who are otherwise qualified for the job and who can perform the essential functions of the job with or without a reasonable accommodation.  A person is considered disabled without regard to any mitigating measures that may apply.  The law's recent amendments strengthen the protection afforded workers, including providing coverage for pregnant workers seeking accommodations.

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 applies to the federal government and entities receiving federal funds. 

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act is part of Title VII. In addition, Maryland’s Pregnancy Fairness Act requires employers to offer accommodations to pregnant employees unless doing so would pose an undue hardship.

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act restricts the use of genetic information in employment or health benefit decisions.

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) prohibits discrimination against active or recently returned service members, and guarantees their right to return to their jobs when the service is concluded.

Federal and State Wage and Benefit Laws

The Fair Labor Standards Act affects employers whose business affects interstate commerce. With few exceptions, employees must be paid the minimum wage. In addition, employees must be paid overtime at time and a half for all hours worked over 40 per week unless the employee is exempt.  Exempt employees generally include professionals, executives, certain administrative staff, certain computer personnel, and highly compensated employees (make at least $100,000 per year), all of which are subject to detailed definitions.

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 allows a worker who is paid less than someone of the opposite gender for the same work to sue for the wage differential. Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C., Section 206(d) - A part of the Fair Labor Standards Act which prohibits sex-based differentials in wages paid for the performance of equal (substantially similar) work. Maryland has a similar but not identical law, the Maryland Equal Pay Act.

Occupational Safety and Health Act - OSHA covers all employers whose business affects interstate commerce.  Employers must keep the workplace free of easily recognized and known dangerous substances, equipment, and facilities, as well as meet certain published standards.  Retaliation for reporting a violation is prohibited.  Usually administered by the State agency, the Act provides for fines for violations.

Child Labor Laws - Generally, a work permit is required in Maryland for any employees under age 18.  Children under 14 cannot be employed at all.  There are also special requirements for breaks and the number of hours per day and per week worked for minors and prohibitions on their working in certain hazardous activities.

         Protection of rights under employee benefit plans is governed by the federal law called ERISA, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

         The Family and Medical Leave Act requires certain larger employers to provide unpaid leave for up to 12 weeks per year to an employee with a serious health condition, or to care for the employee's family member.  The recent amendments give more leave to those caring for returning armed service personnel.

         Maryland law requires employers to pay employees for work performed, and allows them to sue for violations.  The Wage Payment and Collection Act provides for the possibility of tripled damages unless the employer shows that there was a good faith dispute about the wages owed, and attorney's fees for a successful employee. 

Use of Sick Leave with Pay

Maryland employees who earn sick leave through their employment have the right to use that paid leave time to care for a sick spouse, parent or child.  This right overlaps, but does not completely mirror, the Family and Medical Leave Act.  Under this law, any illness is covered, and employees of smaller companies the right to take advantage of their paid leave for family care.  The law prohibits retaliation for taking advantage of the law's benefits or supporting someone who does.

If an employer offers maternity or paternity leave when a baby is born, it must offer the same leave options to parents adopting a child.

The Maryland Parental Leave Act requires employers with at least 15 employees to offer six weeks of leave, which can be unpaid, after the birth or adoption of a child.

The information and services on this web site are not intended to be relied upon as legal advice, but are provided strictly for information and education purposes. Employment law is an especially complicated area and the facts of any particular employment situation will have an impact upon how the law is applied to that situation. If you have questions or require legal advice, then you should retain or talk to an attorney for that purpose. There are members throughout the State of Maryland who are more than willing to sit down with you to discuss your particular situation.

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