We Want to Fight for Your Rights! Contact a Maryland Discrimination Lawyer at Our Firm Today
America is supposed to be the land of opportunity. Everyone should have the ability to seek an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work. Unfortunately, many employers hold on to outdated prejudices when it comes to hiring, firing, managing, and disciplining workers. Doing so based on particular characteristics, however, is considered discrimination and a violation of law. If you have been the victim of workplace discrimination, you need to speak with a qualified Maryland discrimination lawyer to learn about what steps to take in response.
Maryland employers are no exception to this unfortunate trend that is still happening across the country, despite advances in local and federal laws protecting individuals from this type of behavior. That is why federal and state laws prohibit employers from unfairly treating their employees or potential employees based on certain characteristics or traits. Any type of discrimination should have no role in the workplace.
If you have been the victim of discrimination, you need to speak with a qualified Maryland discrimination lawyer to learn about what steps to take in response.
What Kinds of Employment Discrimination Are Illegal?
Discrimination is difficult because it can take many forms. Discrimination may not be immediately obvious, but that does not mean that you are not a victim of discrimination. If you believe you may have been discriminated against at your place of employment, know that you do have rights under state and federal laws. Some examples of discrimination include:
- Equal Pay and Compensation: Federal law requires men and women be paid the same wage for performing “substantially equal” work. If your employer has a history of paying women less than men in the same positions, that is considered discrimination;
- Harassment: When there is a pattern of “offensive conduct” that is “severe or pervasive enough” to create a hostile work environment, you have the right to take legal action. Keep in mind that not all teasing or unwelcome conduct is considered rising to the level of harassment;
- Retaliation: You have the right to pursue an employment discrimination claim on your behalf, or participate in another’s employment discrimination claim, without the fear of losing your job or facing internal disciplinary action from your employer.
Every employee in Maryland has the right to work for full and fair pay in a decent workplace environment, where your value is placed on the quality of your work and no other characteristics. You also are entitled to be treated fairly, and not receive different treatment based on any of your characteristics protected under state and federal laws. It is vital that you know your rights under the law so that you can understand whether or not they have been violated in the workplace by your employer or anyone else in your place of work.
Am I Protected Under Anti-Discrimination Laws?
There are several federal laws as well as Maryland state law that prohibit discrimination by employers of employees, or potential employees, who are part of a protected class under applicable federal and state laws. The first step in assessing a potential discrimination claim is determining if you are in a legally identified class of protected workers. These include, but are not limited to: race, sex, national origin, religion, disability, and age. At The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford, L.L.C., we commonly deal with the following types of discrimination claims:
- Age Discrimination: Discrimination based on age is prohibited under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which protects workers ages 40 and older;
- Disability Discrimination: The Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to provide “reasonable accommodation” to an employee or job applicant who has a disability and prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability;
- Genetic Information: The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, which was passed by Congress in 2008, forbids employers from considering a person’s family medical history and other kinds of “genetic information” when making employment decisions;
- National Origin: An employer cannot implement policies that have the effect of discriminating against people based on their country of origin, their native language, or the fact that they speak English with an accent;
- Pregnancy Discrimination: The Pregnancy Discrimination Act protects women from unfavorable employment treatment based on the fact they are currently pregnant or because they recently had a child;
- Race Discrimination: It is illegal to treat any employee unfavorably because of racial characteristics. These characteristics include, but are not limited to, skin color, hair texture, or even the fact they are married to someone of another race;
- Religious Discrimination: Federal law not only protects members of more “traditional” religions from discrimination but also protects anyone who has “sincerely held religious, ethical or moral religious beliefs;”
- Sex and Gender Discrimination: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act forbids any type of employment discrimination based on sex. Maryland law further prohibits discrimination based on “sexual orientation” or “gender identity,” which includes failure to adhere to traditional gender norms.
A Guide to Federal and State Laws Preventing Employment Discrimination
Maryland residents and employees are protected from employment discrimination at both the federal and state level.
At the federal level, most employment discrimination claims are brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which applies to employers with 15 or more employees and prohibits discrimination on the basis of:
- National origin
Maryland Employment Discrimination Laws
At the state level, Maryland employees are protected under the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act. The state act is broader than the federal act, preventing discrimination based on:
- National origin
- Marital status
- Genetic information
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity
- Disability (unrelated to the performance of the employment)
Maryland residents who are employed in Washington, DC, are also protected by the District of Columbia’s Human Rights Act, which is broader than both the federal Civil Rights Act and the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act. Protected traits under DC’s Human Rights Act for purposes of employment are:
- National origin
- Marital status
- Personal appearance (subject to business standards)
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity or expression
- Family responsibilities
- Political affiliation
- Genetic information
- Credit information
What to Do If You Are the Victim of Discrimination in Maryland
If you believe that you have been a victim of employment discrimination, there are several things you should do to protect your rights. This includes:
- Document, document, document: Keeping accurate documentation of what is going on is vital to your employment discrimination case. Make sure to keep a record of dates, times, and anyone involved in the alleged discriminatory behavior.
- Report the incident: In most cases, your first step should be to address your complaint internally with your employer. Make sure to get an official report to document that your complaint was made and keep a copy of it for your records.
- Interactions with aggressors: Sometimes it is not best to confront the individual engaged in the discriminatory behavior. If this does happen, ensure you immediately document what is said in order to protect yourself should this incident need to be brought up at a later time.
- Contact the EEOC: If reporting the incident directly to your employer does not resolve your problem, your next step is to then file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or its corresponding Maryland agency.
- Contact a Maryland discrimination lawyer: The regulations that govern employment discrimination are complex and not all employees who have been discriminated against may even realize they were victims. Speaking with an attorney experienced in Maryland discrimination laws and employee rights can guide you as far as what actions to take and what legal options are available for you.
It is important to understand that oftentimes, you are required to first file a formal employment discrimination complaint with the EEOC and/or the corresponding Maryland state agency so that the claim can be properly investigated. This is a necessary prerequisite before you can file a lawsuit against your employer in court. In other words, you often cannot go straight to court with your discrimination case against your employer if you did not file a formal complaint with the correct administrative agency first.
According to the EEOC, a complaint of violation of state and/or federal employment laws must be filed within 180 days from the date of the alleged violation. This deadline must be strictly adhered to in order to protect the charging party’s rights under federal laws. That being said, the 180-day deadline may be extended if the allegations are also covered by Maryland state employment law.
The 180-day time limit does not apply to violations claimed under the Equal Pay Act (“EPA”). This is because the EPA does not require a victim to first submit a claim with the EEOC prior to filing a lawsuit in court. Nonetheless, because many claims alleged under the EPA also raise issues under Title VII due to sex discrimination, it may be best to file complaints under both laws within the timeframes imposed.
Under Maryland’s Fair Employment Practices Act (MFEPA), employees who have been the victim of workplace discrimination have 180 days from the date of the incident to file a claim with the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights (MCCR). The time limit allowed to file with the EEOC is extended to 300 days. You should not cause undue delay and risk the possibility of missing a filing deadline. It is important you speak with a Maryland discrimination attorney right away about your situation.
What Evidence Do I Need to Prove Employment Discrimination in Maryland?
A government agency (or a court, if your case makes it there) will require more than just your word that you were a victim of illegal employment discrimination. But obtaining evidence of discrimination is often difficult because employers rarely admit that their actions were motivated by discriminatory intent. Employees who believe that they have been victims of discrimination must prove discriminatory intent through a variety of circumstantial evidence.
A few key types of evidence that you can use to prove discrimination include:
- Your employer frequently made derogatory comments about a protected class to which you belong
- Less qualified individuals who are not a member of your protected class received promotions over you
- You were singled out to perform particularly unpleasant or degrading tasks
- There are few members of your protected class in your workplace
- You and other members of your protected class were terminated first in a round of layoffs
- You were reprimanded for infractions more harshly than others who are not members of your protected class
- Your performance evaluations suddenly turned negative without a corresponding decline in the quality of your work
- You were excluded from or made to feel unwelcome at work events
- You were excluded from or denied professional development opportunities that were made available to others who are not members of your protected class
- Your termination was not carried out in accordance with established company procedures
- You made complaints (either to your internal HR department or to an external investigatory body) about discriminatory behavior shortly before being terminated
- The overall circumstances surrounding your termination were particularly unusual, egregious, or arbitrary
Because employment discrimination can take an almost unlimited number of forms, the above circumstantial evidence is by no means the only evidence that can prove discrimination. For more information about obtaining evidence of discrimination by your employer, contact a Maryland discrimination lawyer.
A Maryland Discrimination Lawyer Can Handle Your Claim
No one should have to deal with discrimination or harassment, especially at their place of work. If you believe you are the victim of workplace discrimination, know that you do not have to try to figure out how to handle this disappointing situation by yourself. Maryland discrimination attorney Jamaal (“Jay”) W. Stafford can help you navigate through this potentially confusing and difficult time.
Employment discrimination cases mandate a complex regulatory maze. We will make sure that your case is dealt with in the proper manner so that your rights are protected under applicable federal and Maryland employment laws. Do not wait another day, as you may forego your rights if you delay your claim too long. Contact the Law Firm of J.W. Stafford, L.L.C., today at 410-514-6099 to schedule a consultation and discuss your employment issue with us.