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Protecting Whistleblowers in Maryland: Know Your Rights and Seek Justice

Whistleblower Rights in Maryland

Do you know what to do if you observe something at work that violates the law or a public policy? Whistleblowers are employees who come forward to report situations that are illegal or pose a danger to the public, and they deserve protections.

In this article, we will cover the whistleblowing rights available in Maryland, both through common law and statutory avenues.

Common Law Protections

Maryland recognizes a common law claim for wrongful termination in violation of public policy. In other words, if you report something that endangers the public or violates a law, you may not be discharged as a result.

Courts in our state have found that whistleblowers should be protected when they report:

– A violation of federal or state law

– A significant and specific danger to the public health or safety

– Misuse of public funds

– Specific ethical breaches

– Other public policies

In order to claim a common law protection, a whistleblower must be able to prove that the violation was of a public policy, the discharge was caused by his disclosure of the violation, and that he was harmed by the discharge. A skilled attorney can help analyze your situation and determine whether your situation fits these requirements.

Statutory Protections

Maryland has also passed laws specifically protecting employees who report certain types of information. Generally, these laws safeguard employees who report employer practices that are illegal, unethical, or unsafe.

One such law is the Maryland Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA), which protects employees who report certain statutory violations from retaliation. Statutes covered by CEPA include those related to the environment, health care, consumer protection, workplace safety, false claims, and more.

In order to be protected under CEPA, you must disclose your employer’s practices either through filing a complaint, testifying, or refusing to participate in illegal activities. Additionally, you must be able to show that the employer took adverse action against you as a result of your whistleblowing, such as firing, demoting, or disciplining you.

Maryland also has specific protection for state employees. The Maryland Whistleblower Law prevents state employers from taking adverse action against employees for reporting illegal or unethical behavior or for participating in investigations.

Importantly, this law covers employees who report the actions of other state employees, as well as those of contractors dealing with the state.

Discrimination in Employment

Prohibitions Against Retaliation

Maryland also has significant protections in place for employees who experience discrimination and retaliation. If you believe that you have suffered retaliation at work as a result of opposing illegal employment practices or challenging an employer’s discriminatory practices, you have the right to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights (MCCR).

To be covered under these laws, employees must show that they have engaged in a protected activity, such as filing a charge of discrimination, testifying, or participating in an investigation. They must also prove that their employer took adverse action against them as a result of their activity, such as demoting, firing, or disciplining them.

Employees who report illegal or unethical behavior or challenge discrimination or retaliation should never be afraid of losing their jobs. Maryland law provides protections for whistleblowers and those who stand up for their rights.

If you think you have been retaliated against or discriminated against, an attorney can help you understand your rights and protect them.

State Contractors

Whistleblowing protections are not limited to traditional employees. In fact, Maryland law also provides protections for whistleblowers who are state contractors.

This includes individuals who work for private companies that are contracted by the state to provide services.

Protection for Whistleblowers

State law affords contractors various levels of protection, including against abuse of authority, danger to public health, and other forms of violations. The Maryland False Claims Act, for one, protects anyone who reports fraud and abuse of authority concerning state contracts from retaliation.

If a contractor reports an employer’s unethical or illegal activities or refuses to participate in such conducts, the contractor is protected. Additionally, the Maryland Public Health Code outlines protections for those who report healthcare concerns related to a contractor.

If a contractor reports an employer’s activities that would cause a danger to public health, he or she is protected against retaliatory actions. Maryland courts have upheld the definition of “public health” broadly, affirming that contractors do not need to limit their reports to health situations to be protected.

These laws make it clear that contractors should have similar protections to state employees and help keep state contracts transparent and ethical. Any contractor who decides to report their employer’s unlawful activities or refuse to participate in dangerous behavior may do so with confidence that Maryland law will protect their rights and keep them from suffering retaliation.

Wage Discrimination

Equal pay for equal work has been a centuries-old battle; women and minorities have been fighting for years for an end to wage discrimination. Fortunately, compensation discrimination based on an employee’s sex, race, national origin, or religion is illegal.

While Maryland law requires employers to pay workers equally for the same job, disparities in pay still exist.

Prohibition Against Retaliation

Employees who report preferential treatment, pay disparities, and other forms of wage discrimination may also be protected from retaliation. The Equal Pay for Equal Work Act (EPEW) prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who complain about wage discrimination.

This Act is enforced by the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights (MCCR), and remedies for retaliation include back pay, damages, and attorney’s fees. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 further strengthened wage discrimination protection.

The Act expanded the statute of limitations for filing a pay discrimination claim, making it easier for employees to fight back against discriminatory practices. The act reinstates the limit upon which each discriminatory paycheck restarts the statute of limitations period.

Conclusion

Maryland law provides significant protections to employees, contractors, and subcontractors who report unlawful activities such as abuse of authority, danger to public health, and wage discrimination. Employees who report such actions or who question their legality are encouraged to speak up and report the practices, knowing that they are protected under Maryland state law.

Employers who violate these protections are subject to severe sanctions, up to and including substantial financial penalties and other sanctions imposed by relevant regulatory agencies.

Public School Employees

Maryland state law also provides extensive protection for public school employees who report any violations of rules or regulations. Protection extends to anyone working in a public school, including teachers, administrators, and support staff.

The Public School Whistleblower Protection Act provides for the protection of any public employee who reports any violation of rules, regulations, policies, or laws governing the operation of public schools or public school systems. This includes matters like unlawful discrimination, hiring and promotion practices that violate state laws, and classroom safety.

Protection for Whistleblowers

Under this act, a public school employee who reports a school-related violation to the appropriate public body or state office is protected from retaliation. Employees who refuse to participate in activity that violates laws, rules, or regulations governing public schools are also protected.

Department of Education personnel, who report suspected illegal conduct to relevant authorities or refuse to participate in such conduct, are protected by Maryland law. Furthermore, school districts or related personnel may face administrative, criminal, or civil liability if they retaliate against an employee who has made a good-faith report.

Anyone who suspected that they experienced retaliation after making a good-faith report can contact the Office of the Ombudsman for Public Education, which provides support for those that reported wrongdoing by public schools or employees.

Health Care Workers

Licensed health care workers are also protected by Maryland law when reporting potential violations of laws or regulations. The Maryland Health Care Worker Protection Act (HCWPA) seeks to protect workers who report abuse and neglect in the workplace, including anyone who works in a hospital or nursing home.

Protection for Whistleblowers

This act protects licensed healthcare workers who report any violation of state or federal law of rules or regulations to an authorized public authority. It also includes employees who report violations of professional standards.

The law provides significant protection to individuals who report these violations, and any retaliation against them by employers is strictly prohibited. To be eligible for protection under the HCWPA, employees must have a reasonable belief that a violation has occurred, and their report must be made in “good faith.” Reports made with reckless disregard to the truth, without respect for the confidentiality of patient information, or knowingly made under false pretenses are not protected under the HCWPA.

However, in the case of good-faith reports, employees are protected from any form of retaliation from their employers, including termination, demotion, or any other adverse employment actions.

Conclusion

Maryland law provides protection for various groups of whistle-blowers, including public school employees, licensed health care workers, contractors and subcontractors on state contracts, and private and public employees who report fraud or abuse of authority concerning state contracts. It is important to note that there are timelines and procedures to follow, and each statute’s requirements can be vastly different.

Anyone who believes they have experienced retaliation after making a good faith report or feels unsure of their rights and protection under the applicable statute should seek assistance from an attorney.

Workers Compensation

Maryland law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who have filed a workers’ compensation claim. The Workers’ Compensation Act of Maryland provides extensive protections for workers who are injured on the job.

This includes employees who file claims for benefits and those who participate in any way in proceedings related to workers’ compensation.

Prohibition Against Retaliation

Under Maryland law, any covered employee who files or attempts to file a workers’ compensation claim with the state of Maryland is protected from retaliation by their employer. Employers may not discharge or discriminate against any worker because they filed a workers’ compensation claim.

Additionally, employers may not threaten or coerce an employee to refrain from filing a claim. Employers who retaliate against employees for filing a workers’ compensation claim may face significant penalties, including reinstatement of the employee, lost wages, and other financial penalties.

This protection applies to any employee who is covered under Maryland’s workers’ compensation laws.

Whistleblower Hotlines in Maryland

Maryland operates several hotlines that are designed to help whistleblowers report violations of laws, regulations, and ethical practices. When matters may not be reported to a supervisor or other reporting mechanism, whistleblowers may have other options like reporting to an independent body.

Reporting Procedures

If someone would like to report a potential violation, there are several options available in Maryland. The body to whom a complaint may be lodged depends on the nature of the issue.

The Maryland Office of the Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly (OOIE) protects the rights of elderly and disabled individuals, while the Maryland Board of Physicians licenses, regulates, and disciplines Maryland’s physicians. Here are a few significant options whistleblowers have:

– Maryland Human Relations Commission: this agency receives and investigates complaints of discrimination relating to employment, housing, public accommodation, and other areas.

– Maryland Secretary of State: this office has a whistleblower contact form and is responsible for the registered agents and other statutory filings. – Maryland Commissioner of Labor and Industry: this commissioner is responsible for enforcing various Maryland labor laws, from the Employment Standards Service to the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health office.

Whistleblowers should report only information they reasonably believe is true and based on their own knowledge. The important thing is that whistleblowers report matters they believe are of public concern as soon as possible.

Whistleblowers are encouraged to consult with an experienced attorney before reporting any issues that they suspect is of public concern.

Conclusion

Maryland law provides extensive protection to whistleblowers throughout various sectors of the economy. Whether an employee, state contractor, healthcare worker, or public school worker, there are mechanisms in place for protecting individuals who report illegal, unethical or unsafe practices in the workplace.

Additionally, whistleblowing hotlines are made available to help whistleblowers report potential violations that may not be geared to a specific governing body. Whistleblowers who believe they have been subjected to retaliation for reporting violations should consult an attorney to help protect their rights under Maryland law.

Whistleblower Retaliation Claims in Maryland

Filing Deadlines

Whistleblower retaliation claims in Maryland have specific filing deadlines that individuals must adhere to in order to protect their rights. It is important for whistleblowers to understand the applicable deadlines and take timely action to preserve their claims.

Statutory Filing Deadline

In Maryland, the filing deadline for retaliation claims depends on the specific statute that the claim falls under. For example, under the Maryland Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA), which protects employees who report certain violations from retaliation, the statute of limitations is one year from the date of the alleged retaliation.

Similarly, for public school employees under the Public School Whistleblower Protection Act, the filing deadline is also one year from the date of the retaliatory action.

Administrative Remedies

Before filing a lawsuit, employees who believe they have been retaliated against must typically exhaust administrative remedies. This often involves filing a complaint with the appropriate agency or commission, which may conduct an investigation or mediation.

The specific administrative procedures and agencies involved will depend on the type of retaliation claim being pursued. If the agency or commission does not resolve the issue to the employee’s satisfaction, they can then proceed to file a lawsuit in court.

It is important to consult with an attorney to ensure compliance with the procedural requirements and filing deadlines specific to the employee’s situation.

Remedies for Unlawful Retaliation

Discrimination

If an employee is successful in a whistleblower retaliation claim, there are several remedies available to them. These remedies are intended to make the employee whole and provide appropriate relief for the harm suffered.

Reinstatement is one common remedy. If an employee has been wrongfully terminated as a result of retaliation, the court may order the employer to reinstate the employee to their former position or a comparable position.

Alternatively, the court may order the employer to provide other relief, such as front pay or compensation for lost wages. In addition to reinstatement and lost wages, the court may also award attorney fees to the prevailing employee.

This is intended to hold the employer accountable for their retaliatory actions and provide the employee with the financial means to pursue their claim. In some cases, the court may also grant injunctive relief to prevent further retaliation or to remedy other violations of the law.

Workers’ Compensation

In cases where an employee experiences retaliation after filing a workers’ compensation claim, the remedies can be more specific to the nature of the retaliation. In Maryland, employers who retaliate against an employee for exercising their workers’ compensation rights can be charged with a misdemeanor offense.

The employer may face penalties, including fines and, in severe cases, imprisonment. The court may also order the employer to provide compensation to the employee for any economic losses suffered as a result of the retaliation.

It is important for whistleblowers who have experienced retaliation to consult with an attorney to fully understand the remedies available to them based on the specific circumstances of their case. An experienced attorney can guide them through the complex legal process and help pursue the appropriate remedies to ensure their rights are protected.

Conclusion

Maryland provides strong protections for whistleblowers who experience retaliation for reporting violations of the law or unethical conduct. However, it is crucial for whistleblowers to be aware of the filing deadlines and follow the necessary administrative procedures to preserve their rights.

If a whistleblower is successful in their retaliation claim, they may be entitled to remedies such as reinstatement, lost wages, attorney fees, injunctive relief, or specific remedies related to workers’ compensation violations. By consulting with an attorney who specializes in employment law, whistleblowers can navigate the legal process effectively and pursue the remedies they deserve.

Whistleblower rights are a crucial aspect of Maryland’s legal framework, providing extensive protections for individuals who report violations of the law, ethical breaches, and dangers to public health. Through common law and statutory provisions, employees, state contractors, public school employees, health care workers, and others are safeguarded from retaliation.

Filing deadlines and administrative remedies play a significant role in whistleblower retaliation claims, underscoring the importance of timely action. Remedies, such as reinstatement, lost wages, attorney fees, and injunctive relief, exist to rectify the harm caused by unlawful retaliation.

The takeaway from this article is clear: whistleblowers play a vital role in upholding the law and maintaining ethical standards, and it is crucial for them to understand and exercise their rights to safeguard the public interest and ensure a just work environment.

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