Baltimore, MD Wrongful Termination Defense Lawyer
Ken C. GauveyPersonal Injury Attorney
Hiring a new employee means paperwork and lots of it. You may take the time and care to put together a new employee package, which includes all the information that an employee will need while they are employed at your company or business. Some employees dutifully read their employee packets and employment guides, however, some employees do not. This can be a frustrating experience for an employer who has taken the time to develop a thorough employment guide, and it becomes even more frustrating when an employee files a suit against an employer despite clear policies contained in their employee handbooks.
However, even though an employer is given a great deal of deference when it comes to hiring and firing at will employees there are still laws that an employer must follow. Maryland has laws that protect employees from discrimination. Additionally, there are laws protecting whistleblowers and protecting employees who are terminated in violation of a clear public policy.
If an employee has filed a claim against your company claiming that they have been wrongfully terminated or discharged, contact Ken Gauvey today at 410-346-2377.
What is Wrongful Termination?
Wrongful termination is more than just a sense of what feels right and what feels wrong. Wrongful termination is a legal phrase and generally describes situation in which an employee is fired or terminated by their employer in breach of the terms of the employment contract. Additionally, there may be a statute or provision of employment law that can provide a basis for a wrongful termination. Generally, an employee may file a wrongful termination claim if they have been terminated in any of the following ways:
- Discrimination – An employer cannot terminate employment because the employee is a certain race, nationality, religion, sex, age, or in some jurisdictions, sexual orientation.
- Retaliation – An employer cannot fire an employee because the employee filed a claim of discrimination or is participating in an investigation for discrimination. In the United States, this “retaliation” is forbidden under civil rights law.
- Employee’s refusal to commit an illegal act – An employer is not permitted to fire an employee because the employee refuses to commit an act that is illegal.
- The employer is not following own termination procedures – Often, the employee handbook or company policy outlines a procedure that must be followed before an employee is terminated. If the employer fires an employee without following this procedure, the employee may have a claim for wrongful termination.
In addition to these situations, there is a strong public policy, which protects employees from being terminated.
What Does an Employee Need to Establish to Prove They Were Wrongfully Terminated?
As an employer, it is important to understand what an employee must establish when they would like to assert a claim that they were wrongfully terminated. An employee must establish the following three elements to assert a claim for wrongful termination:
- That the employee was discharged – this simply means that an employee was fired or removed from their position. Sometimes an employer will discharge an employee from a particular position and move them to another position within the same company. This can still constitute wrongful termination based on the facts of the case.
- That the dismissal violated some clear mandate of public policy – this can be a difficult element to prove because it is not always clear what constitutes public policy and what doesn’t.
- That there is a nexus between the defendant and the decision to fire the employee.
Employees often run into problems collecting the information and data that they need to support all the elements of their case. Employees will often request information that is either not available to the employer or is wholly irrelevant to the case.
Employment Practices to Avoid Wrongful Termination Liability
Employers can utilize some practices and procedures to avoid liability for any wrongful termination claim that an employee might bring.
- Communicate clearly and effectively with employees about all employment policies, procedures, and expectations
- A business of any size should regularly review policies and procedures. Often policies and procedure need to be revised, updated, deleted, or amended.
- An employer should ensure that they are following their own policies by instituting training and regular reviews by their management and staff. Internal employment practices and audits should also be used regularly to ensure that all policies are being followed and are in accordance with the law.
- Maintain uniformity in practices. As highlighted above, it is a common complaint that an employer did not uniformly apply his or her own practices and procedures to a given situation.
- When the situation arises where an employee needs to be terminated, the employer should attempt to determine what methods and documentation they have that has led them to this point.
By instituting some policies and procedures during the entire employment relationship from hiring to termination, an employer is more likely to avoid any liability.
What is the EEOC?
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. The EEOC was created to prevent any person from engaging in any unlawful employment practice established in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC performs this function by “informal methods of conference, conciliation, and persuasion,” or by filing a lawsuit in any of the United States District Court. Title VII of the Civil Rights act of 1964 is a federal statute, however, the General Assembly of Maryland responded to Title VII by enacting the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Law. Ch. 717 of the Acts of 1965. In it, the Legislature declared that the policy of Maryland is to “assure all persons equal opportunity in receiving employment … regardless of race, color, religion, ancestry or national origin, sex, [or] age….”
Like its federal counterpart, the original version of the Maryland statute declared discriminatory employment practices to be unlawful. It provided for limited enforcement through an administrative agency, now the Human Relations Commission (HRC) (then entitled “Interracial Commission”). If the EEOC or the HRC finds that your employer engaged in an unlawful employment practice, the court may enjoin the employer’s actions, reinstate the employee, award up to two years back pay, or “order such affirmative action as may be appropriate. If the EEOC determines that there is no reasonable cause or basis for an allegation of discrimination, it notifies the employee making the claim of his or her right to bring a civil action in the United States District Court.
Most employers with at least 15 employees are covered by EEOC laws. Most labor unions and employment agencies are also covered. The laws apply to all types of work situations, including hiring, firing, promotions, harassment, training, wages, and benefits.
Get the Experience of a Wrongful Termination Lawyer in Baltimore, Maryland
If an employee has claimed that they have been wrongfully terminated you may be facing the possibility of a lawsuit in both state and federal court. Contact an experienced wrongful termination attorney. Contact Ken Gauvey today at 410-346-2377.