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Greenbelt MD Employment Law Blog

Intern harassment bill withdrawn in Maryland

There are a number of laws that dictate what behavior is acceptable in the workplace. For example, employees are protected by law from being discriminated against or harassed based on age, race, disability, religion, sexual orientation and national origin. However, not everyone is protected under this law.

Interns, or unpaid workers, are not protected by these laws because, by definition, they are not considered employees. This has created a gray area when it comes to defining their roles and establishing protections for interns. As it stands now, many interns have tried unsuccessfully to hold an employer accountable for harassment or discrimination. But could that be changing soon?

Woman awarded $1 million in wrongful termination suit

Employers in Maryland have the right to fire employees for a wide range of reasons. A worker may be underperforming, violating workplace rules or no longer needed in a position. Many employees may feel as though they have been fired unfairly, but the fact is that in general, employers can terminate an employment contract at any time. 

However, there are times when a firing could be considered wrongful and a violation of an employee's rights. If a firing is based on a person's age, race, religion, gender or disability, it can be considered discriminatory and unlawful. If a firing is in response to the employee filing a complaint or after reporting employer misconduct, it could also be considered an illegal firing.

Understanding the difference between lawful and unlawful employment practices could save employers a lot of time and money. One hospital recently learned an expensive lesson after they wrongfully fired a nurse.

Johns Hopkins Hospital at the center of wage dispute

Violations of wage laws are among the most contentious issues facing business owners and employees in Maryland. While there are strict regulations in place that are intended to protect both sides of the issue, it is more likely that we will read about an employee's rights being violated in terms of inadequate minimum wage, unpaid overtime and other similar violations.

For example, readers may have heard about the situation facing Johns Hopkins Hospital. Workers at the hospital recently went on strike after a contract dispute turned sour when it came to increasing wages for cooks, housekeepers and others who are employed at the hospital.

Maryland bill protects transgender employees from discrimination

There are many laws in place that protect an employee's rights in Maryland. If an employer is in violation of these laws, he or she can be held accountable if a lawsuit is filed. This is true whether an employer directly contributed to a situation or if he or she failed to take appropriate action to address the situation.

For example, if certain employees are being harassed or discriminated against on the job, it is the employer's responsibility to take steps to protect them. This prevents workers from being unfairly treated because of their race, age, gender, sexual orientation, religion or disability. Recently, a bill was sent to Gov. Martin O'Malley which would also protect people from discrimination based on their gender identity in Maryland.

Court: Executive violated leave terms in contract agreement

Technology and communications are some of the most competitive industries in the world. Business owners in these fields generally go to great lengths to protect themselves and their products in order to keep up and stay aggressive in the marketplace. One of the tools that companies utilize to achieve these goals is a strict employment contract.

For example, Maryland business owners may want to ensure that their employees do not leave their company and work at a competing company, as doing so could put the employee in the position to share sensitive or confidential information. That is why some people are required to sign contracts that set limits on if and when they may work at a competing business. If an employee violates this contract, serious penalties could be imposed. That is the situation currently playing out after an executive at BlackBerry violated an employment contract to go and work for Apple.

Claim: Maryland company discriminated against man with HIV

A Maryland-based healthcare company is at the center of an employment dispute involving allegations of discriminatory hiring practices. Depending on the outcome of a lawsuit that was recently filed, the company could be forced to change their hiring practices and compensate one man who claims to have suffered damages as a result of not being hired.

According to reports, the man was told by the company that they would not hire him because he was HIV positive. His lawyer argues that this is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prevents employers from discriminating against people with disabilities in the workplace. 

Was deputy fire chief wrongfully fired in Maryland?

Getting fired can be a very upsetting experience for any person across Maryland because people generally do not want to be forced to leave a job. However, employers do have the right to terminate workers for any number of reasons. While the decision to let someone go may not be easy or favorable, it is crucial that it is legal.

Employees who feel that they have been unfairly fired may decide to file a wrongful termination claim against an employer. A lawsuit of this kind can put business owners and managers in the difficult position of defending their decision to fire someone and providing evidence to support the decision. This is the very situation that has come up in the wake of a Maryland fire department's decision to fire a deputy chief. 

Facebook and employee confidentiality concerns

Should employers address the issue of employees accessing Facebook or other social media accounts while at work or on their work computers? A recent lawsuit suggests that employers in some industries may be wise to include best practices on this issue in their employee handbooks.

According to the allegations, an employer and employee had agreed to an $80,000 settlement in a previous employment dispute. Part of the terms of that agreement required the employee's confidentiality. However, the employee shared the outcome with his daughter. The employee's daughter, in turn, may not have understand that provision, for she posted an entry to her 1,200 friends on Facebook about the outcome. 

Wage gap based on gender is still an issue in Maryland

It may surprise Maryland readers to learn that a pay disparity still exists between full-time, year-round workers in this state. According to data maintained by the American Association of University Women, female workers earn only about 85 percent of the amount paid to men putting in the same number of hours.

The wage gap hasn’t escaped the attention of federal lawmakers. Recently, House Democrats launched an online campaign, themed around Valentine’s Day. The effort included a Valentine’s Day wish list, comprised of items like pay equity, affordable childcare, and paid family and medical leave.

Workplace romances and discrimination claims

Although Valentine’s Day has come and passed, the possibility of a workplace romance may still be present, especially as spring approaches. From an employer’s perspective, there can be questions as to whether official corporate policy should even address the topic of workplace romances.

In a recent survey by the online job site Monster.com, over half of American employees stated that they would avoid dating a coworker, out of fear of endangering their careers. It’s easy to imagine some of the potential complications. 

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