Maryland Whistleblower Laws

A summary of whistleblower laws at the state level in Maryland

A Summary of Maryland Whistleblower Law

Maryland follows the employment-at-will doctrine. This means employees can be fired for any reason or no reason. However, the state of Maryland has several statutory protections and common law protections that are used as an exception to this doctrine. Statutory protections are laws that are enacted by the state’s legislature to cover specific subject areas, e.g., discrimination, while common law protections are laws that are created by courts to address areas not covered by enacted laws.

This is a summary of Maryland Whistleblower Laws, make sure to check out the Federal Whistleblower Laws as well.

Whistleblower Rights in Maryland

Common Law Protections

Maryland recognizes a public policy exception to the employment-at-will doctrine. This means it is illegal for employers to discharge employees for reasons that violate Maryland’s public policy. To determine what constitutes public policy, the courts usually look at prior judicial opinions, administrative regulations, or laws enacted by the legislature. Some of the activities that are protected under the public policy include:

  • Testifying at a proceeding or hearing.
  • Exercising a right endorsed by a statute or any other law.
  • Reporting a violation of a law to the relevant authority.

To ensure guaranteed protection, whistleblowers should make disclosures concerning law violations by their employers or co-workers to the appropriate law enforcement agency. Simply discussing the violation with a supervisor or employer may reduce a whistleblower’s likelihood of being protected under Maryland’s public policy.

Statutory Protections for Whistleblowers in Maryland

Public Employees

No supervisor, appointing authority, or head of a principal unit is allowed to take or fail to take a personnel action against an employee as a reprisal for:

  • Disclosing an abuse of authority, gross mismanagement, or a waste of money.
  • Disclosing a violation of a law.
  • Disclosing the existence of substantial danger to the safety and health of the public.

Md. Code Ann., State Personnel, and Pensions § 5-305.

Discrimination in Employment

It is illegal for an employer to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Opposing discriminatory practices opposed by this statute.
  • Making a charge, testifying, or participating in an investigation, hearing, or proceeding under this statute.

Under this statute, it is illegal for employers to discharge, alter terms of employment, refuse to hire, or in any way discriminate against an employee because of the employee’s race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, genetic information, or a disability which does not negatively impact the individual’s job performance.

Md. Ann. Code art. 49B, §§ 15, 16(f).

Occupational Safety and Health

No individual or employer is allowed to dischargeor in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Filing a complaint under this statute.
  • Instituting a proceeding or an action under this statute.
  • Testifying or intending to testify in an action or proceeding related to this statute.
  • Exercising a right endorsed by this statute on behalf of himself, herself, or others.

Also, employers are not allowed to in any way retaliate against an employee because the employee gained knowledge through participating in a group medical coverage.

Md. Code. Ann., Lab. & Empl. § 5-604.

State Contractors

It is against the law for employers to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Disclosing information concerning abuse of authority, gross mismanagement, or a waste of money.
  • Disclosing the existence of substantial danger to public health and safety.
  • Disclosing a violation of a law.
  • Refusing to participate in an activity or practice that would result in a violation of a law.

Md. Code Ann., State Finance, and Procurement § 11-303.

Wage Discrimination

Employers are not allowed to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Filing a complaint with the employer, Commissioner of Labor, or another person.
  • Instituting a proceeding or action that is related to this statute.
  • Testifying or intending to testify in a proceeding under this statute.

Md. Code. Ann., Lab. & Empl. § 3-308.

Public School Employees

Public school employers are not allowed to discharge, alter terms of employment, or in any way discriminate against a public school employee in retaliation for:

  • Disclosing or threatening to disclose to a supervisor a violation of a rule, law, or regulation by the employer.
  • Providing information or testifying before a public body conducting an investigation, inquiry, or hearing concerning a violation of a rule, law, or regulation by the employer.
  • Refusing to participate in an activity that would result in a violation of a law, rule, or regulation.

Also, the employee has to notify the supervisor or a representative of the employer about the violation and give the employer a reasonable amount of time to correct the violation.

Md. Code. Ann., Lab. & Empl. § 6-902.

Health Care Workers

Employers are not allowed to discharge, alter terms of employment, or in any way discriminate against a licensed or board-certified health care worker in retaliation for:

  • Disclosing or threatening to disclose to a supervisor a violation of a rule, law, or regulation by the employer.
  • Providing information or testifying before a public body conducting an investigation, inquiry, or hearing concerning a violation of a rule, law, or regulation by the employer.
  • Refusing to participate in an activity that would result in a violation of a law, rule, or regulation.

For the protection to be valid, the whistleblower has to have a reasonable and good faith belief that the employer has or is still engaging in the violation of a law. Also, the whistleblower has to notify the supervisor or a representative of the employer about the violation and give the employer a reasonable amount of time to correct the violation.

Md. Code. Ann., Lab. & Empl. § 1-502.

Workers’ Compensation

Employers are not allowed to discharge covered employees in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim. Md. Code. Ann., Lab. & Empl. § 9-1105.

Whistleblower Hotlines in Maryland

To file complaints under the public employees statute, call the Maryland Secretary of State at 410-974-5521.

To file complaints under the occupational safety and health statute and wage discrimination staute, call the Commissioner of Labor and Industry at 410-767-2992.

To file complaints under the discrimination statute, call the Human Relations Commission (HRC) at 410-767-8600.

Whistleblower Retaliation Claims in Maryland

Unless stated otherwise by a statute, whistleblowers who suffer unlawful retaliation should file a lawsuit with the appropriate court within 3 years of the retaliation.

Public Employees

Complaints under this statute should be filed with the Secretary within 6 months of the retaliation.

State Contractors

Lawsuits under this statute should be filed within 1 year of the retaliation.

Health Care Workers

Claims under this act should be filed with the appropriate court within 1 year of the retaliation or after learning of the retaliation.

Public School Employees

Claims under this act should be filed with the appropriate court within 6 months of the retaliation or after learning of the retaliation. However, whistleblowers are required to exhaust administrative remedies before proceeding with the lawsuit. The deadline for filing administrative complaints is 15 days.

Occupational Safety and Health

Complaints under this statute should be filed in writing with the Commissioner of Labor and Industry within 30 days of the retaliation.

Discrimination

Complaints under this statute should be filed with the Human Relations Commission (HRC) within 6 months of the retaliation if the employer has 15 or more employees. If the employer involved in the retaliation has less than 15 employees, whistleblowers can only file a lawsuit.

Whistleblower Retaliation and Violation Penalties in Maryland

Unless stated otherwise by a statute, employers who carry out unlawful retaliation against an employee may be liable to the aggrieved employee for a combination or any of the following:

  • Reinstatement of the employee to the previous job position.
  • Reinstatement of full fringe benefits and seniority rights.
  • Lost wages.
  • Litigation costs, including attorney fees.
  • Injunctive relief.
  • Removal of adverse personnel record entries related to the violation.
  • Plus, any other relief deemed appropriate by the court.

Discrimination

Employers who carry out unlawful retaliation against an employee may be liable to the aggrieved employee for a combination or any of the following:

  • Reinstatement of the employee to the previous job position.
  • Reinstatement of full fringe benefits and seniority rights.
  • Lost wages.
  • Litigation costs, including attorney fees.
  • Injunctive relief.
  • Plus, any other relief deemed appropriate by the court.

Monetary compensations are limited to a 36-month period.

Workers’ Compensation

Employers who carry out unlawful retaliation against an employee may be found guilty of a misdemeanor. Upon conviction, they may be liable for a fine not exceeding $500 or a jail term not exceeding 1 year, or both.

Wage Discrimination

The Commissioner may institute an action on behalf of the complainant for injunctive relief and damages.

More Maryland Laws

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