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Discrimination

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 Unfortunately, many employers hold on to outdated prejudices when it comes to hiring, firing, managing, and disciplining workers.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., our Maryland discrimination lawyers 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.

Our Maryland Discrimination Lawyer Outlines Federal and State Laws Preventing Employment Discrimination

Maryland residents and employees are protected from employment discrimination at both the federal and state level.

Federal

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:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • 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:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Age
  • National origin
  • Marital status
  • Genetic information
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity
  • Disability (unrelated to the performance of the employment)

Washington, DC

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:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • National origin
  • Sex
  • Age
  • Marital status
  • Personal appearance (subject to business standards)
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity or expression
  • Family responsibilities
  • Political affiliation
  • Disability
  • Matriculation
  • 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 your Maryland discrimination lawyer can use to prove your claim 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.

Discrimination Blog Articles

What is Workplace Discrimination?

Workplace discrimination occurs when an employer treats any current or potential employee differently based on that worker’s protected class or protected status. Many individuals are members of protected classes, which means anti-discrimination laws have been passed on the federal or state level that prohibit discriminating against them due to certain innate traits or characteristics.  When an employee is victimized by workplace discrimination, the employee can take various legal actions including filing a complaint with federal or state regulatory agencies and filing a civil lawsuit to recover compensation for discrimination.

What Types of Employer Behavior Can Be Considered Workplace Discrimination?

Employers are not permitted to discriminate on any of the terms or conditions of employment based on someone’s protected class or protected status. An employer cannot take protected status into account when deciding who to hire, who to promote, whether an employee is eligible for a promotion, or what workplace benefits different employees are entitled to.

Who is Protected By Workplace Discrimination Laws?

There are many different laws that prohibit different kinds of discrimination and protect certain classes or groups of people. For example, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination against people on the basis of race, religion, national origin, color, or sex. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibits discrimination against older workers. The Americans With Disabilities Act protects against discrimination on the basis of disability status.

These are all federal laws that prohibit discrimination against employees across the country. Individual states also have their own laws in place that prevent discrimination – and some provide broader protection than federal laws do. For example, many states have laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation so gay and lesbian workers cannot be discriminated against. Some states also extend protections to transgender workers. A minority of states also have rules in place prohibiting discrimination on the basis of political viewpoints.

These state-specific rules only protect employees who work in states where the rules apply; there are no broad federal protections preventing discrimination on the basis of gender identity, sexual orientation, or political viewpoints.

When is an Employer Required to Make Reasonable Accommodations – And What Does That Mean?

Some anti-discrimination laws not only prohibit employers from discriminating on the basis of someone’s protected status, but they also require employers to make accommodations for certain employees.

For example, the protections in Title VII against religious discrimination require that employers accommodate a worker’s religious beliefs as long as doing so does not pose an undue burden. An employer who normally prohibits any headgear at the office might, for example, be required to allow members of certain religious groups to wear headgear like a turban or yarmulke.

Protections for disabled workers also require employers to make reasonable accommodations so someone who is disabled but otherwise qualified for a job can be hired or retained. For example, if a worker’s disability prevents him for standing for long periods of time but the worker is otherwise qualified to work as a cashier, a store that is hiring cashiers might be required to provide a seat for a disabled candidate who applies even if most cashiers have to stand for their shift.

Does an Employer Face Legal Liability Only for Intentional Discrimination?

In some cases, employers intentionally and overtly discriminate. For example, an employee may refuse to promote women because of their gender or African American candidates as a result of their race.

However, this type of discrimination is not the only type of discrimination that is prohibited by Title VII and other anti-discrimination laws.  Employers are also prohibited from disparate impact discrimination and can be held legally liable if they engage in this type of misconduct.

Disparate impact discrimination occurs when an employer establishes a job qualification that has the effect of disqualifying more people of a protected class. For example, if an employer required that every employee be able to easily lift 100 pounds of weight, this could be considered to be a form of disparate impact discrimination because men are much more likely than women to be able to achieve this objective.

Not every test or job requirement that has the effect of disqualifying more members of a protected class can result in a successful claim of unlawful discrimination. Employers are allowed to impose employment requirements that have a disparate impact if there is a bona fide occupational purpose. For example, if the employer is hiring someone to load trucks with heavy boxes and the boxes all weigh more than 100 pounds, there would be a bona fide job-related reason for a test requiring workers to lift 100 pounds of weight and such a job requirement would not be considered discriminatory.

What is Hostile Work Environment Discrimination?

Employers can also be held legally liable for another type of unlawful discrimination, which is called hostile work environment discrimination. Hostile work environment discrimination occurs when an employee is made unreasonably uncomfortable at his or her job as a result of his or her protected status.

For example, a female employee who is routinely and repeatedly subjected to sexist jokes and comments by coworkers might be a victim of hostile work environment discrimination. An employer could be held legally liable for this type of discrimination even if the unlawful behavior is carried out by peers or even subordinates – the unlawful behavior doesn’t have to be done by the management or sanctioned by the company executives to be illegal discrimination.

Employers can protect themselves by providing a means for workers to report discriminatory behavior and by taking action to respond to such a report. If employers can prove that they  had a system in place to protect workers and that the employee who is claiming to be a victim of hostile work environment discrimination chose, without reason, not to take advantage of the system, the employer can escape liability.

In order for discrimination to create a hostile work environment, there generally must be a pattern of behavior rather than an isolated event, unless the isolated event was an extreme one that shocked the consciousness. The pattern of behavior must include behavior that a reasonable person would find offensive or discriminatory.

Why is It Important to Get Help From a Maryland Discrimination Lawyer?

It is important for victims of discrimination to get help from a Maryland discrimination lawyer because an attorney can help you to understand your rights and pursue a claim for appropriate legal remedies. You could fight for back pay, damages for emotional distress, reinstatement of your job, and other remedies that you are entitled to as a result of the specific unlawful discrimination that you fell victim to.

Proving a claim of discrimination can be difficult, and you need to make certain that you contact an attorney right away so your lawyer can help you to begin documenting evidence and can work with you to ensure you are able to prove unlawful discrimination occurred.

Employers should also consult with an attorney as a preemptive step to avoid a lawsuit or EEOC claim by establishing and enforcing anti-discrimination policies in the workplace. If an employer is accused of unlawful discrimination, hiring an attorney can also be helpful to take action in building a defense against serious accusations that could result in damage to the company’s reputation as well as substantial financial loss.

Many employment-related disputes involving discrimination are settled outside of court, and attorneys can help to facilitate negotiations between the opposing parties. An attorney can also provide assistance making a compelling case in court and presenting evidence in an admissible way that is understandable to a jury hearing the case.

To find out more about how an attorney can provide assistance with legal issues related to discrimination, contact a Maryland discrimination lawyer today for help and support. Call The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford, L.L.C. at 410-514-6099 or contact us online as soon as possible.