Respected Baltimore Employment Attorney with Over 19 Years of Experience
If you need legal advice or representation for an employment-related matter, you need experience you can trust. Baltimore employment lawyer Joyce E. Smithey has over 19 years of experience working with employers and employees throughout Maryland, combined with many more years of collective experience between the other three firm attorneys.
Joyce E. Smithey is the Managing Partner of Smithey Law Group LLC. For more than 19 years, she has been advising Maryland businesses on appropriate employment practices and claim prevention and representing both employers and employees in employment-related disputes and litigation. As an experienced Baltimore labor lawyer, she is recognized as an authority on employment law in Maryland, and she provides savvy, forward-looking representation for companies and individuals throughout the State of Maryland. She and her team are ready to assist you with any labor or employment law matter.
Services and Experience
The employment and labor law experience of the team includes working with private employers as well as both private and public sector employees. Ms. Smithey and her team have extensive knowledge of both Maryland and federal employment law. They have represented clients in several highly publicized cases in both state and federal court. When advising employers, our Baltimore employment attorneys focus on mitigating their risk exposure while finding cost-effective solutions to their legal needs. As an advocate for employees in Baltimore, MD, our attorneys take an aggressive and all-encompassing approach to standing up for their legal rights.
As dedicated Baltimore employment lawyers, our attorneys regularly advise employers and employees. We handle cases in Baltimore and throughout Maryland that are related to all facets of employment and labor law, such as:
- Class Actions – Ms. Smithey and her team represent groups of employees who have been similarly affected by an employer’s illegal activities, such as being discriminated against or harassed in the workplace. They can advise you whether a class action may be in your best interest.
- Representation of Public Sector Employees – Additional legal protections are available to public sector employees. Our Baltimore employment attorney can assert your rights and make sure you are protected in the workplace.
- Employment Contract and Severance Negotiations – If the employer and employee have agreed to end the employment relationship, Ms. Smithey and her team can advocate for their client’s needs during a contract and severance negotiation.
- Restrictive Covenants and Non-Competes – The Smithey team can work with employers to develop restrictive covenants and non-competes that protect their legitimate business interests. They can also represent employees who are being restrained from finding employment due to these agreements.
Because Maryland is an at-will employment state, employers enjoy a great deal of freedom in who they hire and in who or why they might fire someone. In fact, at-will employment means that an employer is free to let someone go for any reason or no reason at all. But this freedom is not absolute.
- Wrongful Discharge – While Maryland is an employment-at-will state, there are certain times when employers cannot legally discharge an employee. These limitations can be attributed to public policy concerns like some that are listed in the next two points. Rest assured that Ms. Smithey and her team can help employees who are victims of wrongful discharge as well as employers who are facing charges of this nature.
- Discrimination – The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal law that says employees have the right to be free of discrimination for protected class statuses, including race, color, national origin, sex, religion, and disability. In fact, this prohibition against discrimination supersedes the “at-will” status of employment in our state. So if you believe that you have been fired for a discriminatory reason, then you can sue your employer for wrongful termination. The Smithey team can help employees fight for their right to a discrimination-free workplace. They can also help employers develop policies that prohibit discrimination in the workplace.
- Equal Pay Act – While the Equal Pay Act is separate from the Civil Rights Act, it addresses the issue of discrimination as well – but it solely addresses discriminatory pay practices. This Act assures that men and women receive the same pay for completing similar work. If there is a disparity in the salaries men and women make, our Baltimore employment attorneys fight to assert your rights under the Equal Pay Act.
Likewise, there are certain things that must be provided by employers who have a certain size workforce.
- Medical Leave – The FMLA provides medical leave for certain employees who meet the requirements under federal law. Ms. Smithey and her team can provide advice and guidance to Baltimore employees and employers about rights under the FMLA.
- Wage and Hour Issues – The Smithey team helps resolve wage and hour issues for Maryland employers and employees, such as unpaid wages or overtime hours.
- WARN Act Violations – The WARN Act requires certain employers to provide advance notice to employees before shutting down a plant. If an employer violated this law, Ms. Smithey or another firm attorney can help employees seek recourse.
There are certain rights that employees can enjoy on the job, such as the right to privacy in certain circumstances, the right to not have your professional reputation harmed, etc. In other words, despite their seemingly endless power over you while on the job, there are certain things that your employer cannot do to you.
- Defamation – If your employer has made negative and untrue statements about you to prospective employers, as skilled Baltimore employment lawyers, Ms. Smithey and her team can provide effective legal assistance. They assist employees who are victims of defamation who are having difficulty finding new employment prospects due to the negative statements and reviews of former employers.
- Disability Accommodations – If you are disabled, you have a right to a reasonable accommodation under state and federal law. Our attorneys can help fight for the accommodations you need to perform your job. They can also advise employers on disability accommodation matters to ensure they stay compliant with the law.
- Retaliation and Reprisal – Employers are restricted from retaliation against employees when they take certain actions, such as filing a discrimination claim, a disability claim, sexual harassment claim, or if an employee becomes a whistleblower. Our proven Baltimore employment attorneys represent employers who are charged with retaliation as well as employees who are lodging such a claim.
- Sexual Harassment – Employees have the legal right to not be subject to sexual harassment that is so frequent or severe that it alters the terms and conditions of employment. Ms. Smithey and her team of highly skilled Baltimore employment attorneys can help harassed employees fight to protect their rights in the workplace.
- Workplace Privacy – Our highly experienced Baltimore employment lawyers work closely with Maryland employers to develop policies related to workplace privacy that serve their interests and remain compliant with current law. They can also represent employees whose privacy was violated.
In addition to the practice areas above, Ms. Smithey and her experienced legal team also work with Maryland employers and employees as a:
- Certified Mediator in Employment Disputes – Ms. Smithey is a certified mediator in employment disputes. She can help employers and employees resolve all of the legal issues discussed on this page in an effective manner that protects their privacy and saves time and money through the confidential process of mediation. In this capacity, Ms. Smithey serves as a neutral third-party who uses conflict resolution skills to help the parties reach a mutually satisfactory agreement.
Learn more about our Baltimore employment attorneys’ areas of practice.
FAQs: Common Questions from Maryland Employers
Q: How can I limit my company’s exposure to employment-related claims and litigation?
- Employers in Maryland are subject to a wide range of state and federal employment and labor laws. Mitigating claim exposure requires the development and active implementation of a customized and comprehensive compliance program focused on policy documentation, procedural enforcement, and employee education. An experienced Baltimore employment lawyer can help you develop a program tailored to your company.
Q: When is an employee entitled to take job-protected medical leave?
- Under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), private employers with 50 or more employees are required to provide unpaid, job-protected medical leave to eligible employees with qualifying medical conditions. Knowing when employees are entitled to take protected leave and how to implement an appropriate certification policy requires a thorough understanding of several key provisions of the FMLA.
Q: What disability accommodations are employers required to provide in Maryland?
- Employers in Baltimore, MD are subject to the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Fair Housing Amendments Accessibility Guidelines, and certain other Maryland-specific requirements. Similar to FMLA compliance, disability law compliance requires a comprehensive approach guided by a clear understanding of all of the various laws and guidelines that apply. Contact our highly knowledgeable and proven Baltimore employment lawyer to discuss your case.
Q: What are my rights if I lost my job or got passed over for a promotion on a discriminatory basis?
- State and federal laws protect employees in Baltimore, MD against discharge and other employment-related decisions made on the basis of age, disability, family responsibilities, genetic status, marital status, national origin, political opinion, pregnancy, race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation. If you believe you may be a victim of discrimination in the workplace, it is important that you speak with an experienced Baltimore employment attorney right away.
Q: I am being subjected to sexual harassment at work. What are my rights?
- Sexual harassment is considered a form of discrimination, and it is not tolerated under the law. Employers in Baltimore, MD must take appropriate measures to provide their employees with safe work environments; if you are being harassed at work, you need to stand up for your legal rights. Contact our Baltimore employment attorney today.
Q: My employment contract contains a non-competition clause. What can I do for work?
- Under Maryland law, only certain non-competition clauses are enforceable. If your employment contract contains a non-compete, one of the first questions you need to address is whether it is likely to hold up in court. Baltimore employment attorney Joyce Smithey and her team have extensive experience dealing with non-compete issues in Maryland and can help you assess your options.
Q: I think I was wrongfully terminated, but I know that Maryland is an “at-will” work state. How do I know if my termination was wrongful?
- Even in an “at-will” work state, where employers can essentially fire you for any reason – or no reason at all – there are limits to this freedom. Here are some instances where you cannot be legally terminated:
- Breach of Implied Contract: Words that your employer used during the hiring process, or even words written in an employment manual, can form the basis of an implied contract. For instance, if you were told that you would keep your job as long as productivity remained at 80%, and that standard was met but you were fired anyway, you may have a cause of action for wrongful termination.
- Breach of Actual Contract: If you have an actual employment contract, then you are not really operating under “at-will” employment. Your contract cannot be breached or you may have a wrongful termination claim.
- Public Policy: Public policy dictates that employees cannot be fired for the following reasons:
- For filing a workers’ comp claim
- Demanding to be paid at least minimum wage
- Demanding to be paid for overtime
- Taking FMLA leave
- Refusing to tolerate unsafe working conditions
- Refusing to take part in illegal activities ordered by the employer or for whistleblowing
- Missing work due to jury duty
- Missing work due to military service
- Discrimination: The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its subsequent amendments are federal laws that must be abided by. Therefore, employers are not allowed to discriminate based on status in any protected class. This includes but is not limited to race, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, pregnancy, age, or disability.
- Harassment: Sexual harassment is not allowed on the job, and the victims of such harassment cannot legally be fired for failing to participate or for filing a grievance.
Q: What exactly are “whistleblower laws” and how do they relate to me?
- These are laws that make it illegal for an employer to take any negative action towards an employee who reports abuse of authority, massive financial waste, gross mismanagement, illegal activity, or public health and safety dangers that are caused by their employer. Such an employee can and should report such behavior to the government, and then the relevant laws kick in that prohibits an employer from retaliating against any employee that reported the wrongdoing.
Q: Do You Have to Be Working at a Company for Discrimination Laws to Apply to You?
No. The law that prohibits discrimination in the workplace also applies the hiring process. So even during the interview, there are certain areas that the interviewer needs to stay away from.
For instance, it is OK for an interviewer to ask some types of personal questions like, “what are your favorite hobbies,” or “what is your favorite color.” However, they are not allowed to ask you about your age, religion, gender identity, ancestry, or any question that is discriminatory as described in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Q: I Want to Sue My Employer for Discrimination. What Kind of Evidence Will I Need?
This can get a little tricky. If you feel that you were discriminated against, you may find yourself thinking, “well yeah, but how in the world would I prove it in court?” This is a logical question since so much discrimination happens in a private setting. So what types of evidence can you begin collecting to help with your claim?
Well, first of all, your Baltimore employment attorney will help you greatly with this after listening to your case. But here’s a general guideline for seeking evidence to support your claim.
- Comments overheard by other employees
- If your employer made any discriminatory statements to you in front of colleagues, go back and speak to them about it. See what they remember and if they’d be willing to testify at least at a deposition as to what they heard. Some people will, understandably, be fearful of reprisals from the boss. But that is also illegal behavior that can be pursued separately should it occur.
- Discriminatory actions witnessed by others
- If any of the discriminatory behavior happened where another person could see it, this is also good evidence. So, again, ask your peers if they ever saw the discriminatory behavior and you might get a witness or two on your side.
- Jobs or promotions being given to others who have less experience and are less qualified than you – but who belong to a different race, religion, sex, etc., than you.
- Comments overheard by other employees
This is not an exhaustive list, but it is a good place to start in seeking evidence to support your claim.
Q: What is the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act?
This is a law that became effective in Maryland in February of 2018. The law states that employers with 15 or more employees must provide for up to 40 hours of paid sick leave, per year, for eligible employees. Employees are eligible if they are over 18 years of age and work more than 12 hours per week. However, for employers that have 14 or fewer employees, the requirement is that they still provide for up to 40 hours per year of sick leave, but it can be unpaid sick leave. Keep in mind that this act generally only covers regular employees of a company as opposed to independent contractors or workers who operate on an “as needed” basis. But, for qualifying employees, this can be a source of great relief, as they can use this time either for their own physical or mental wellness or for the health concerns of a family member. Of course, included in this plan is any maternity or paternity leave. But what you may not expect is that it also covers leave that may need to be taken after a domestic violence incident or a sexual assault on the employee or one of their family members. Violations of this law can result in the imposition of up to treble damages.
Schedule a Confidential Consultation with an Experienced Baltimore Employment Lawyer
To find out more about employers’ obligations and employees’ rights in Maryland, contact one of our skilled Baltimore employment attorneys for a confidential consultation. To schedule an appointment, call (410) 919-2990 or get in touch online today.