Wrongful Termination

Experienced Maryland Wrongful Termination Lawyers

The employment relationship in Maryland and D.C. is ordinarily “at will,” meaning that either the employer or the employee can terminate the employment relationship at anytime for almost any or no reason. The law prohibits employers, however, from terminating employees for unlawful reasons, such as the employee’s race, national origin, pregnancy, gender, age, disability, religion, or for making protected disclosures to a governmental agency.


We work with our clients on a case-by-case basis to ensure that they get full compensation for the damages that they suffered as a result of being wrongfully discharged by their employer.

If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated by your employer for one of the reasons previously mentioned, an experienced Maryland wrongful termination lawyer at The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford, L.L.C. stands ready to represent you and to stand up for you against your former employer.

Wrongful Termination by Maryland Employers

Employers engage in wrongful termination in a variety of forms.  The most common form of wrongful termination is when an employer discharges an employee because of their race, national origin, age, gender, religion, disability, pregnancy or some other protected status.  These forms of termination are precluded by various state and federal statutes and claims typically can be brought against the employer under those statutes.

Maryland also recognizes a cause of action for wrongful discharge, which is when a termination of employment violates public policy and is not necessarily actionable under a specific state or federal statute.  To establish a claim for wrongful discharge, the employee must show that they were discharged, that the discharge violated a clear mandate of public policy and that there was a nexus between the employee’s conduct and the employer’s decision to terminate the employee.  Maryland courts are very strict about the public policy requirement and typically require that the Maryland legislature have made a clear declaration regarding the particular public policy at issue.  For example, a Maryland court has found a viable claim for wrongful discharge where a teacher at an at-risk youth program was terminated after notifying police that the program’s policies placed children at risk of abuse.  In this instance, Maryland law required educators to report suspected child abuse to the appropriate law enforcement agency, so the public policy requirement was satisfied.

Employers also engage in wrongful discharge when they terminate an employee for reporting fraud to federal or state governmental agencies.  If you are an employee and you believe you have been terminated for disclosing your employer’s fraud to a governmental agency, then you may have a claim for wrongful discharge.  Many state and federal laws, such as the Whistleblower Protection Act, shield employees from retaliation by their employer for making such a disclosure.

Claims Handled by Our Maryland Wrongful Termination Lawyers

“Wrongful termination” is an umbrella term that encompasses many types of illegal behavior by employers. Most wrongful termination claims can be broken down into one of several broad categories, listed below.

Breach of Implied Contract

Even though most employment relationships are at will, these types of relationships can still be subject to several judicially-imposed “implied” contracts. For example, if your employer verbally represented to you that he or she would need your services for a period of at least three years but then dismisses you after two years, a court may find that your employer’s statement created an implied contract and that your dismissal was a breach of that contract.

Discrimination

Various federal and state laws prohibit discrimination on a number of grounds, such as race, ethnicity, age, disability, religion, gender, and sexual orientation. If your employer dismisses you because you fit into one of these protected classes — for example, if you overhear your employer say that you are too old and should be replaced with someone younger and more attractive — your termination likely was discriminatory.

Harassment

Federal and state laws also prohibit harassment in the workplace, which the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines as “unwelcome verbal or physical behavior that is based on race, color, religion, sex, gender/gender identity, national identity, physical or mental disability, or genetic information.” A very common example of wrongful termination based on harassment involves employers firing employees who rebuff their sexual advances.

Violation of Public Policy

As noted above, Maryland law allows wrongful termination claims when the firing was based on a clear violation of public policy. Some examples of employee terminations that could violate public policy include:

  • Employees who refuse to work in an unsafe environment
  • Employees who refuse to commit or assist in the commission of illegal activity
  • Employees who are absent from work for jury duty or military service
  • Employees who demand overtime pay when it is legally required

These types of wrongful termination claims can be particularly tricky to pursue, however. If you suspect that your termination may have been in violation of public policy, you should consult a Maryland wrongful termination lawyer.

Retaliation

Wrongful terminations due to retaliation occurs when an employer fires an employee for participating in legally protected behavior, such as whistleblowing, reporting regulatory violations, or opposing discriminatory practices, among others. For example, if your employer fires you because you assisted in an investigation of alleged workplace discrimination, you may have a wrongful termination claim.

What Does “At Will” Employment Mean?

Most workers in Maryland are what the law refers to as “at-will” employees. Generally, if you do not have an employment contract with your employer, you are presumed to be an at-will employee. An at-will employment situation is one in which:

  • Your employer may terminate your employment at any time and for any reason or no reason
  • You may leave your job at any time and for any reason or no reason
  • Your employer can change the terms of your employment with no notice

It is not always clear whether a particular employee is considered to be at-will, particularly if there is evidence of an implied employment contract (discussed below). If you are unsure of whether you are an at-will employee, contact a Maryland wrongful termination lawyer.

Exceptions to Termination of At-Will Employment in Maryland

As with most legal doctrines, there are exceptions to the general rule that an employer can terminate an at-will employee for any reason. There are three scenarios in which termination of an at-will employee may expose the employer to legal liability:

1. The Existence of an Employment Contract

Employment contracts do not always have to be written down and signed by their parties. In some cases, an employer may make certain verbal assurances — such as “you’ll have a job here as long as you want one” or “we’ll need your help for at least three years” — that can create an “implied contract.” Terminating an employee in violation of such an implied contract may constitute wrongful termination.

2. Discrimination

In Maryland, the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act aims to ensure that every employee in the state is given equal opportunity in the workplace. As such, your employer may not terminate you, even if you are an at-will employee, for reasons based on:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Ancestry or national origin
  • Sex
  • Age
  • Marital status
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity
  • Disability
  • Genetic information

If you can prove that your employer terminated you for one of the above prohibited reasons, you may be able to pursue a cause of action for wrongful termination. However, obtaining evidence of discrimination is often difficult, since direct evidence of discriminatory intent is usually nonexistent. Rather, an employee alleging wrongful termination based on discrimination must ordinarily rely on circumstantial evidence. Contact a Maryland wrongful termination lawyer for more information about proving discrimination in the workplace.

3. Violations of Public Policy

Maryland employers also may not terminate at-will employees if doing so would violate “a clear mandate of public policy.” This scenario is a bit murkier than the others due to the difficulty of determining what exactly a “clear mandate of public policy” is, but a few examples include:

  • Firing an employee for refusing to participate in illegal activity at the employer’s request
  • Firing an employee for filing a claim under the state’s workers’ compensation program
  • Firing an employee for reporting violations of law by the employer to the proper authorities

To discuss your specific situation, contact a Maryland wrongful termination lawyer at our firm today.

Evidence of Wrongful Termination

Direct evidence of wrongful termination (e.g., your employer actually telling you that you are being fired because they would like someone of a different race to fill your position) is fairly rare.

Instead, you likely will need to rely on circumstantial evidence to prove your claim. A few signs that your termination may have been wrongful include:

  • You are a member of a protected class and are qualified for your position, but the person who replaced you is not a member of a protected class
  • Your dismissal occurred shortly after you engaged in a protected activity (e.g., filed a discrimination claim, refused to participate in illegal activity, revealed a disability, etc.)
  • Your dismissal occurred after you rejected your employer’s sexual advances
  • Your employer routinely made disparaging remarks about a protected class to which you belong
  • Your employer intentionally made your work environment unpleasant before you were dismissed
  • Your performance evaluations suddenly declined without a corresponding decline in the quality of your work product
  • Your dismissal occurred after you voiced concerns about unethical or illegal employment practices (e.g., sexual harassment, failure to pay overtime, paying women less than men in the same position, etc.)

For more information about the evidence required to prove wrongful termination, contact a Maryland wrongful termination lawyer by filling out our online form or by calling us at (410) 514‑6099.

How a Maryland Wrongful Termination Lawyer Can Help You

We work with our clients on a case-by-case basis to ensure that they get full compensation for the damages that they suffered as a result of being wrongfully discharged by their employer.  Our wrongful termination lawyers pursue damages for back pay, as well as damages for the emotional distress that our clients have suffered as a result of being wrongfully terminated from their job.  Likewise, we also assist our clients in obtaining reinstatement to their job, if that is their objective.

Working with the experienced Maryland wrongful termination lawyers at The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford, L.L.C. is simple, confidential and efficient. We thoroughly review your options and the law and then put together a comprehensive strategy to achieve your goals.  Maryland wrongful termination attorney Jamaal (“Jay”) W. Stafford is an experienced litigator and is no stranger to the courtroom.  He brings to bear his litigation experience and employment law expertise to craft creative solutions for each of his clients.  You can contact the firm by sending us a message via our website or by calling us at (410) 514-6099. Call us today and let us fight for you.

Wrongful Termination Blog Articles

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Retaliation and Wrongful Termination

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Like most states, Maryland is an at-will state when it comes to employment. This means that an employer can terminate an employee for no cause at all at any time. This does not, however, give employers carte blanche. There are certain situations in whi …

Hear What Our Clients Have To Say

Mr. Stafford is a pleasure to work with. We are very grateful to him for the excellent and tactful way he handled a tough situation, and particularly with the efficiency and speed with which it was executed. We would have no hesitation in using his services again or recommending him to acquaintances.