Explained by a Maryland wrongful termination lawyer.
Maryland is an "at-will" state, so your employer can fire you for almost any reason. But a Maryland employer still can't fire you for a reason that would violate the state's public policies. For example, Maryland public policy prohibits firing someone for their race, disability, or because they complained about wage theft.
While an "unfair" termination isn't necessarily a wrongful termination—it often is. Contact us today and speak with one of our experienced wrongful termination lawyers. They can tell you whether you have a wrongful termination case.
What counts as a wrongful termination?
To win a wrongful termination case in Maryland, you need to prove three things:
Your employer terminated you.
Your termination violated Maryland public policy.
A connection exists between your termination and the public policy.
See Holden v. Univ. Sys. of Md., 222 Md. App. 360 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 2015).
First, you generally can't pursue a case for wrongful termination in Maryland if you resign. Your employer must have terminated you. That said, Maryland recognizes the concept of "constructive termination," which happens when your employer forces you to resign. At the Employment Law Center of Maryland, we strongly recommend that you contact us before you resign.
Second, you need to identify a "clear mandate of public policy" that prohibits the reason for your termination. State or federal laws, or even some Maryland county codes (including Montgomery Prince George's), set out these public policies. See Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act. Generally, Maryland employers cannot fire you because of your:
Employers also can't terminate you in retaliation for "protected activity." This could include requesting a reasonable accommodation for a disability or complaining about your wages. Your employer also can't fire you in violation of your employment contract if you have one.
Third, you must demonstrate that your termination genuinely links to the public policy you identified above. You should expect your employer to come up with other excuses for firing you. For example, they'll say that you were a poor performer or engaged in misconduct. You will need to prove that those excuses aren't legitimate (or what employment lawyers call "pretext").
If you can establish all three of these "elements," you'll have a winning case for wrongful termination. Next, let's cover the proof you'll need in your wrongful termination case.
How do I prove a wrongful termination?
When you sue for wrongful termination, the "burden" of proving the case is on you. This can be a complex and daunting task. To win a wrongful termination lawsuit, you should focus on the following types of evidence:
Employment Records. Your personnel file, which should include performance evaluations and any records of discipline, is key. If you've got a solid track record of good performance (or, at least, no record of bad performance), that will strengthen your case. Employers find it difficult to explain firing employees with excellent performance.
Written Policies. If your employer failed to follow their own written policies on discipline or termination, that's a major red flag.
Communication Records. Any form of communication, including emails, letters, and text messages, can act as evidence. Conversely, a lack of written warnings or discussions may bolster your claim for wrongful termination.
Witness Statements. Your co-workers' statements on your performance and behavior at work can be tremendously valuable. This is especially true if they contradict what your employer is saying about your termination.
Contradictory Reasons for the Termination. At the Employment Law Center of Maryland, our wrongful termination heavily scrutinuze your employer's statements. If your employer's rationale for firing you shifts or changes over time, this will destroy their credibility in court.
To strengthen your case, it's important to quickly contact a Maryland wrongful termination attorney. They'll ensure that your employer doesn't try to destroy any important evidence and start gathering the evidence you need. On that note, let's address whether (and when) you need a wrongful termination lawyer.
Do I need a wrongful termination lawyer?
We strongly recommend booking a consultation with an experienced Maryland employment lawyer right out of the gate. They can tell you whether you have a potential case—before you've invested substantial time and money in the process. We always recommend finding a lawyer who's a member of the National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA). At the Employment Law Center of Maryland, all our attorneys are NELA members.
If you do have a wrongful termination case, you'll need professional guidance. Maryland employment laws are intricate and often convoluted. A well-versed employment attorney will help you file a complaint and ensure you meet court deadlines and requirements. They will have the expertise necessary to gather, analyze, and present the evidence necessary to build a solid case.
Finally, in our experience, Maryland employers prefer to settle wrongful termination cases. A skilled employment lawyer will use their legal knowledge and negotiation skills to make sure you get a fair settlement.
How much money is a wrongful termination case worth?
Because each case is unique, the monetary value of wrongful termination cases in Maryland varies wildly. Depending on the facts of your case, it could be worth a few thousand dollars or millions of dollars. If your employer treats you unfairly, a Maryland jury can make them pay a large sum of money as punishment.
Generally, we seek the following "damages" in our wrongful termination cases:
Back Pay. Back pay is the money you lost as a result of unfair termination. This can include wages, bonuses, benefits, and more.
Front Pay. Front pay refers to the projected future earnings you lost as a result of the wrongful termination. We generally describe this as the value of the damage to your overall professional career caused by the termination.
Emotional Distress. A wrongful termination often causes our clients to experience a great deal of stress, anxiety, and depression. Even if you didn't seek treatment from a mental health professional, you can recover damages for this emotional distress.
Punitive Damages. If your employer’s behavior was particularly malicious, they may have to pay punitive damages. Punitive damages punish your employer and deter similar conduct in the future.
Attorneys' Fees and Court Costs. Certain Maryland employment laws let you get back the money spent on the lawsuit, such as lawyer fees and court expenses.
At the Employment Law Center of Maryland, we will estimate the value of your case during your case evaluation. If you need a Maryland wrongful termination lawyer, contact us today to get the process started.
Doane v. Strategic Housing Solutions LLC
In an unpaid wages case, obtained a trial victory and treble (3x) damages against employer.
Garner v. Western Maryland Scenic Railroad Development Corp.
In a wrongful termination case, resolved after obtaining sanctions against employer for destroying evidence.
Boston v. Dinocrates Group, LLC, et al.
In an unpaid wages case, obtained a judgment against Dinocrates Group, LLC for nearly $300,000.
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