Pursue or Defend against Harassment Claims with the Help of an Experienced Frederick Sexual Harassment Attorney
As part of the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. area, Frederick stands as part of a large metropolitan area and is the second-largest city in Maryland. The city houses many of the employers located in the state. In 2018, there were 565 individual sex discrimination filings made by Maryland employees—which includes sexual harassment—according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This represents nearly one-third of all of the 1,914 discrimination claims filed in the state.
Maryland employers and employees who are confronting instances or allegations of sexual harassment in Frederick, Maryland, should go to a trusted discrimination law firm to learn about their rights. Joyce E. Smithey and her exceptional award-winning team have decades of experience in this section of the law and can advise you of your rights.
Maryland Policy on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
The State of Maryland’s revised Sexual Harassment Policy and Procedures recognizes different types of sexual harassment, including:
- Verbal sexual harassment – This form of sexual harassment includes sexual innuendos, threats, jokes, sexual propositions, or suggestive comments. These statements may regard the physical act of sex or be gender based.
- Non-verbal sexual harassment – Examples of non-verbal sexual harassment include leering, whistling, showing inappropriate sexual pictures, making obscene gestures to another person in the workplace, or making suggestive noises.
- Physical sexual harassment – This form of sexual harassment includes touching, pinching, brushing up against another person’s body, or making other physical contacts of a sexual nature.
- Quid pro quo sexual harassment – This type of sexual harassment arises when submission to unwelcome sexual advances is a condition of continued employment, or submission or rejection to it is used as the basis for an adverse employment action.
- Hostile work environment – A hostile work environment is created when sexual harassment is unwelcome, based on the victim’s gender, and severe or pervasive enough that it alters the conditions of the individual’s employment and creates a work environment that is objectively and subjectively perceived as hostile or abusive so that a reasonable person would not be able to tolerate it.
Recent Changes in Sexual Harassment Law in Maryland
Maryland has passed important laws that have changed the sexual harassment landscape in the state. Two of the most recent additions to sexual harassment law in Maryland include:
Sexual Harassment Disclosure Law
Maryland’s Disclosing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Act of 2018 became effective on October 1, 2018. This law prohibits waivers of any future sexual harassment and retaliation claims by employees in the state. Therefore, employers in Maryland are not allowed to require applicants to sign a waiver that states that they agree to waive a substantive or procedural right or remedy for future sexual harassment or retaliation claim to receive employment, continue employment, or avoid an adverse employment action. For example, employers cannot take adverse employment action against an employee who refuses to sign a document requiring mandatory arbitration of a sexual harassment claim. Employers who enforce these provisions or attempt to enforce them can be held liable for the employee’s reasonable attorney’s fees and costs in addition to any other appropriate damages allowed under the law.
Additionally, this law requires employers with at least 50 employees to submit a survey to the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights that is published online and available for public inspection. Employers are required to submit the report on July 1, 2020, and every two years after that.
Due to the recent change in the law, employers should review their employment policies and update them immediately to comply with the new law. They should also provide training opportunities for their managers to educate them about the law. Employees who are asked to sign a waiver of this nature should contact a knowledgeable Frederick sexual harassment attorney to learn about their legal options.
Application of Harassment Laws to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Another significant change is the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in state anti-discrimination legal protections. The law prohibits any of the following employment practices based on sexual orientation or gender identity:
- Printing or publishing a notice for a preference for certain orientations or gender identities;
- Failing or refusing to hire an applicant;
- Terminating or demoting an employee;
- Segregating or classifying employees in an adverse manner.
An experienced Frederick sexual harassment lawyer from our team is passionate about protecting our clients. We will use our vast knowledge and experience to help you in your sexual harassment claim, including any of the recent changes in sexual harassment law.
Other Recent Amendments to Maryland’s Fair Employment Practices Act
There are other expansions to Maryland’s Fair Employment Practices Act (FEPA) that should be noted by employers and employees alike. Employers should be particularly interested in learning about how these recent expansions to existing law might affect their business. Compliance should be given adequate consideration, and consulting with an experienced employment lawyer is an excellent place to start.
Definition of “Employee” Expanded
In the past, you must have been an actual employee to receive any benefits or rights from FEPA. As of October 2019, these protections have been expanded to include independent contractors who work for a company but are not technically considered employees. This is a somewhat startling expansion, as independent contractors have historically never been considered employees.
This also means that employers are held liable for any discriminatory behavior perpetrated by their independent contractors. For instance, if Amy is an independent contractor with Widgets, Inc., then:
- If Amy is sexually harassed by an employee at Widgets, Inc., she can sue the company for that harassment; and
- If Amy sexually harasses any employee at Widgets, Inc., then that employee can sue Widgets, Inc., for the harassment perpetrated by Amy.
Time to File Expanded
The new state laws also expand the amount of time allowed to file a harassment suit with a Maryland government agency from six months to a full two years from the date of the incident. If you want to file a discrimination charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), you have 180 days to do so. If your EEOC charge covers the same subject matter as a complaint you could bring under Maryland law, you have 300 days to file a charge with the EEOC.
Definition of Employer Expanded
Under other employment laws, a workplace must have 15 employees or more for the laws to apply. However, for the purpose of workplace harassment, all workplaces with even a single employee are held accountable.
Settlement of a Sexual Harassment or Discrimination Claim
To avoid lengthy litigation, you and your employer may desire to settle your sexual harassment or discrimination complaint. A settlement should cover any remedies you could receive in a successful complaint, including:
- Back pay;
- Job reinstatement;
- Hiring if you were denied employment for discriminatory reasons;
- Compensatory damages for future financial losses;
- Compensatory damages for pain and suffering;
- Compensatory damages for out-of-pocket expenses;
- An injunction against unlawful employment practices; and
- Any other appropriate equitable relief.
Maryland law reduces your back pay award by wages you could have earned with reasonable diligence.
The amount you can expect from a harassment or discrimination settlement depends on the specific facts of your case, but there are some limitations. Maryland law limits the amount of compensatory damages you can receive for your pain and suffering and future financial loss. Victims of workplace sexual harassment or discrimination cannot receive pain and suffering and future financial loss damages exceeding:
- $50,000 if their employer has 15 to 100 employees in 20+ weeks of the current or preceding year;
- $100,000 if their employer has 101 to 200 employees in 20+ weeks of the current or preceding year;
- $200,000 if their employer has 201 to 500 employees in 20+ weeks of the current or preceding year;
- $300,000 if their employer has 501 or more employees in 20+ weeks of the current or preceding year.
An attorney can analyze all your remedy options to determine what a just recovery or settlement looks like in your matter.
Coming to the settlement table with an employer who has harmed you is not easy, but an experienced sexual harassment lawyer can protect you and maximize your recovery.
Schedule a Confidential Consultation with our Frederick Sexual Harassment Lawyers
If you believe that you are the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, or if you are a Maryland or District of Columbia employer confronting allegations of this nature, or if you wish to revise your employment policies to comply with new sexual harassment laws, contact Joyce E. Smithey to arrange a confidential consultation. Smithey Law Group LLC provides zealous legal representation to employers and employees throughout Frederick, Maryland, and the D.C. area.
We also represent our clients within the following types of employment legal matters:
- Class Actions,
- Disability Accommodations,
- Employment Contract and Severance Negotiations,
- Equal Pay Act,
- Medical Leave,
- Representation of Public Sector Employees,
- Restrictive Covenants and Non-Competes,
- Retaliation and Reprisal,
- Sexual Harassment,
- Wage and Hour Issues,
- WARN Act Violations,
- Workplace Privacy,
- Wrongful Discharge, and
- Certified Mediator in Employment Disputes.
Contact the trusted Frederick sexual harassment attorneys at Smithey Law Group LLC by calling or completing our online contact form.