Despite being an at-will state, Maryland does prohibit employers from taking adverse employment actions against their employees who partake in protected actions. Known as workplace retaliation, an employee subjected to retaliation may have a claim for substantial damages against their employer for this behavior. If you or someone you know has been subjected to retaliation in the workplace around the Baltimore area, the experienced employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP are here to help. To learn more about your legal options, call or contact our office today to schedule a free consultation of your claims.
What is Workplace Retaliation?
Workplace retaliation refers to any situation in which an employer takes an adverse employment action against an employee or job applicant because they engaged in legally protected activity. State and federal laws provide protections for workers or applicants engaged in protected conduct as well as from retaliation that stems from an employer taking adverse action due to discrimination because of actual or perceived inclusion in a protected class.
Retaliation in Maryland can also extend beyond the workplace. An employer is not allowed to make threats or statements outside of the scope of employment that could be construed as retaliation, such as threatening to report an employee to immigration authorities. Employers are also prohibited against taking an adverse employment action against members of an employee’s family in retaliation for an employee’s action.
Activity Protected in a Workplace Retaliation Claim
There are two main types of protected activity that an employer is barred from taking an adverse employment action against. The first is participating in the formal legal processes involved in workplace discrimination or harassment claims. This includes filing a workplace harassment or discrimination claim with the proper government agencies, being interviewed or serving as a witness in a harassment or discrimination case, and recording or submitting evidence for a case.
The second type of protected conduct is opposing workplace harassment or discrimination. Examples of this include complaining to others about harassment or discrimination in the workplace, refusing to obey an order from a supervisor or co-worker believed to be discriminatory, advising an employer about non-discrimination or harassment laws, resisting unwanted sexual advances in the workplace or protecting others from those advances, and requesting reasonable accommodations for a religious practice or disability.
Examples of Retaliation
There are many different types of retaliation that an employer can engage in with an employee that is detrimental to their employment. An adverse employment action can take many forms, but the qualifying characteristic is that the action is materially adverse, or that it would deter a reasonable person from engaging in their protected activity. Examples of retaliation in the workplace include the following:
- Transfer to a less desirable location
- Assigning undesirable or impossible work duties
- Unreasonable scrutiny of work
- Reprimands or negative performance reviews
- Scheduling of difficult or less desirable work hours, and more.
If you or someone you know is experiencing workplace retaliation, it is important to collect as much evidence as you can for your employment attorney.
Proving Workplace Retaliation
Proving that an employer retaliated against an employee can be a difficult task, especially if the employer is using another reason as pretext for their adverse employment actions. One critical element of a workplace retaliation claim is proving a causal connection between protected activity and the adverse employment action. However, there are certain types of evidence that can be critical in proving that the reason behind the employer’s actions were retaliatory in nature, such as:
- Timing: the adverse employment action occurred right after the protected conduct
- Oral or written statements by the employer that reveal retaliatory intent
- Pretextual reasons for the adverse employment action that easily fall apart
- Inconsistent, changing, or contradictory reasons by the employer as to why the adverse employment action was taken
- Treating other employees who did not partake in the protected conduct more favorably
- Sudden changes in the demeanor of the employer to the employee right after the protected conduct that fundamentally changes the working relationship, and
- Negative performance evaluations that do not align with the quality of work
A knowledgeable employment law attorney can help an employee gather the evidence necessary to prove retaliation and win a claim against the employer.
How a Lawyer Can Help in a Retaliation Case
Hiring an experienced Maryland employment law attorney can be the critical difference in a workplace retaliation case. A knowledgeable employment lawyer understands the law and the legal processes involved in filing a valid workplace retaliation claim. An attorney can ensure that the case is filing in the correct manner with the proper governmental agencies in order to begin the process. A lawyer can then start the process of collecting evidence, interviewing witnesses, scheduling depositions, and gathering everything necessary to prove that an employer took an adverse employment action because their employee engaged in a protected activity.
If the case is not settled by the government, an attorney is absolutely necessary to take the claim of workplace retaliation to trial. A skilled attorney will have experience in the courtroom and will be able to make the best possible arguments in your case. They understand the discovery and trial process, and they will be able to answer all your questions throughout every step of the process. A lawyer can assert and protect an employee’s rights during the case and zealously advocate for the compensation they deserve for being retaliated against in the workplace. If you are interested in learning more, talk to an experienced employment law attorney today.
Talk to Our Office Today
Have you or one of your coworkers been subjected to workplace retaliation by your employer in the Baltimore area? This is not something that you need to go through alone. The experienced Maryland employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP are here to zealously advocate for your rights and interests. Call the office or contact us today to schedule an evaluation of your case with one of our knowledgeable employment lawyers.