Private Sector Employees and Government Contractors
At The Federal Practice Group Worldwide Service, we represent private sector
employees from the District of Columbia and Maryland, including government
contractors, in a broad spectrum of employment law related claims, to
include the following areas:
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII
of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for
sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature
constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly
affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an
individual's work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile,
or offensive work environment. The District of Columbia Human Rights Act
and Maryland Human Rights Act, as well as local ordinances such as the
Human Relations Acts of Montgomery County and Prince Georges County, also apply.
Discrimination based on race/ethnicity or national origin
Federal and state law protects individuals from race discrimination in
the workplace as well as discrimination based on national origin. Federal
laws, such as the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, explicitly
protect against race discrimination, as do local laws such as the District
of Columbia Human Rights Act, the Prince Georges County Human Rights Act,
and the Montgomery County Human Rights Act. Race discrimination was also
outlawed under the Civil Rights Act of 1866.
Discrimination based on age
Federal, state, and local laws protect employees and job applicants from
age discrimination. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA")
is a federal law that protects employees from discrimination that results
in a loss of pay, such as discrimination in hiring, promotions, pay increases,
and terminations. In addition to the Age Discrimination in Employment
Act, other laws protect older employees from unfair treatment, including
the Older Workers Benefits Protection Act ("OWBPA") and the
Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"). Age discrimination
is also prohibited by the District of Columbia Human Rights Act, the Prince
Georges County Human Rights Act, and the Montgomery County Human Rights Act.
Discrimination based on gender/sex
Where sexist behavior results in a loss of income or opportunities, such
as in hiring, promotions, pay, benefits, and termination, it is against
the law. Other unlawful sex discrimination includes when sexism or sexual
entreaties rise to the level of a hostile work environment or sexual harassment.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects against sex discrimination
in employment. The Equal Pay Act prohibits employers from paying women
less than men for equal work. State and local laws such as the District
of Columbia Human Rights Act, the Montgomery County and Prince Georges
County Human Rights Acts provide legal protections from sex discrimination
and cover smaller employers.
Discrimination based on pregnancy
Under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (part of Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act), it is unlawful for employers to discriminate against women
because of pregnancy. Employers may not subject pregnant women to different
standards for determining leave and benefits than they apply to other
employees. Employers are also forbidden from refusing to hire or from
firing a woman because she is pregnant. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act
is one of several laws, including the Family Medical Leave Act and local
laws such as the District of Columbia Human Rights Act, that protect the
rights of pregnant employees.
Discrimination based on religion
Religious discrimination is the treatment of an employee differently because
he or she belongs to a particular religious organization or holds particular
religious beliefs. The law extends to people from all religions and or
the religion of a close family member or associate. Freedom from religious
discrimination is protected by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, by state
laws such as the District of Columbia Human Rights Act and Maryland Human
Rights Act, as well as by local ordinances such as the Human Relations
Acts of Montgomery County and Prince Georges County.
The law protects people with disabilities from discrimination and requires
employers to provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities.
To be protected, an employee generally must be a "qualified individual
with a disability," which means that the person is qualified for
the job and has a disability as defined by the law. There are three possible
ways to have a disability recognized under the law:
- If you have a physical or mental condition that substantially limits a
major life activity
- If you have a history of a disability
- If your employer believes you have an impairment that is long lasting and not minor
Even if you do not have a disability, the law may protect you from discrimination
based on your relationship with a person with a disability.
If you are a qualified individual with a disability and your employer has
treated you less favorably on the basis of your disability, your employer
may be in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended,
or the Rehabilitation Act, as amended, by state laws like the District
of Columbia Human Rights Act and Maryland Human Rights Act, as well as
by local ordinances such as the Human Relations Acts of Montgomery County
and Prince Georges County.
Sexual Orientation Discrimination
Employees are protected against sexual orientation discrimination by the
District of Columbia Human Rights Act, which explicitly outlaws discrimination
on the basis of sexual orientation, as well as the Montgomery County Human
Rights Act. Executive Order 13087, which prohibits discrimination based
upon sexual orientation within administrative agencies of the federal
government. In some cases, Title VII can protect individuals from discrimination
where stereotypical gender roles result in unfair treatment of gay, lesbian,
and transgendered individuals.
The prohibition against sexual orientation discrimination in the District
of Columbia and Montgomery County extends to more than just tangible employment
actions. For instance, the law also protects against harassment based
on sexual orientation. Under the law, employees may be protected against
the use of slurs, epithets, and other hostile behavior based on sexual
orientation when committed by the employee's co-workers, supervisors,
clients, or customers, when it create a hostile work environment. The
law forbids harassment that is so severe or pervasive that employees'
working conditions are changed.
It illegal to fire, demote, harass, or otherwise retaliate against employees
and applicants for employment because they have filed a complaint of discrimination
or because they participated in a lawsuit or an investigation concerning
employment discrimination. Retaliation means any action that would reasonably
deter a reasonable employee from
Negotiating, drafting and reviewing employment contracts
Employment contract disputes can arise in the course of employment or after
employment is terminated. Often, employment contracts are drafted by the
employer and are intended to protect employer's rights. Many employment
contracts fail to protect the rights of employees. We can assist you in
drafting, reviewing, or asserting your rights before you enter an agreement
or after a dispute arises. Before you enter into an employment contract
that may affect your salary, benefits, severance package, or future ability
to work, you should review your rights and obligations with an experienced
employment contracts attorney. We will review all of your options and
alternatives and assist you in negotiating an employment contract agreement
that safeguards your rights.
We will examine the details and documents of your employer's severance
package offer and advise you on whether the offer is adequate based on
your time of service, years of experience, and other mitigating factors.
We can help in explaining your rights and responsibilities under any arrangements
you may be asked to sign in exchange for the severance package, and may
suggest more aggressive compensation based on your personal factors.
Non-compete and non-disclosure agreements
Disputes regarding wages and hours, non-compete and non-disclosure agreements,
or other contractual obligations between the employer and the employee
are not uncommon. If you have entered into an employment contract and
now face a dispute, we can assert your rights in or out of court. Whether
you are interested in protecting your job, challenging an obligation,
or asserting your rights against an employer who has breached the terms
of the contract, we will work to resolve the dispute and protect your
interests. We review these agreements, as well as executive pay package
contracts, to ensure that a legally binding document is in place.
Wage claims and equal pay claim
Federal and state wage and hour laws are designed to ensure that workers
are paid for the hours they work and to ensure workers are paid above
a minimum wage. The Fair Labor Standards Act entitles many workers to
the minimum wage and payment of overtime wages at least 1.5 times the
ordinary wage for time worked over 40 hours in a work week. Additionally,
state laws require that individuals must be paid in a timely manner or
their employers are subject to legal action. State wage and hour laws
can provide additional protections above and beyond those provided by
the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. For example, the Maryland Wage Payment
and Collection Law allows employees to recover up to three times the unpaid
wages and commissions, along with attorneys' fees. The District of
Columbia also has laws requiring the prompt payment of wages earned and
allow employees to take action and recover for a failure to timely pay
Although an employee is generally considered to be employed "at will"
and can be discharged by an employer for any reason or for no reason at
all, most states have adopted public policy exceptions to protect employees
who disclose criminal, illegal, unethical or unsafe practices. In addition,
the public policy exception to the employment-at-will doctrine protects
employees who refuse to engage in illegal conduct.
In the District of Columbia, an employee may sue an employer for wrongful
discharge if the employer terminates the employee for: (1) refusing to
engage in illegal conduct, (2) exercising a statutory right, or (3) reporting
an employer's or a co-worker's illegal conduct.
In Maryland, an employee has a cause of action for wrongful discharge when
the employee's termination contravenes a clear mandate of public policy.
Maryland and federal legislative enactments, and administrative regulations
can serve as a source of the public policy. A complaint alleging the tort
of wrongful discharge must contain a substantial degree of particularity.
An employee alleging wrongful discharge in violation of public policy
must bring a claim within 3 years of the alleged wrongful termination.
A prevailing employee may be awarded lost pay, and compensatory and punitive damages.
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) issues
State and federal family and medical leave acts help to protect individuals
who must take leave to care for family or themselves. Employees enjoy
protection for family and medical leave, and from retaliation by employers
when employees take leave. The right to take leave is protected by the
Federal Family Medical Leave Act (FLMLA) as well as state laws like the
District of Columbia Family Medical Leave Act (DCFMLA). Washington, D.C.
has its own FMLA law which provides covered employees with up to 16 weeks
of unpaid leave during a two year period. The DCFMLA has different requirements
than the federal statute, and it provides broader coverage and protections
than federal law. An employee must file suit within 1 year of the DCFMLA
violation. Unlike under the federal FMLA, the DCFMLA allows employees
to take leave to care for someone with whom they are in a committed relationship.
The Maryland Flexible Leave Act provides employees of employers with 15
or more employees with the ability to use paid leave that has been earned
by the employee for an illness in the employee's immediate family.
FILING A CHARGE
As with other parts of Title VII, an employee must file a charge with the
EEOC within 180 days from the date of event that constitutes discrimination
(300 days if your state has its own sex discrimination law and agency
that handles discrimination complaints) in order to not lose their right
to file a lawsuit on a claim. After the EEOC investigates the charge and
issues a "Notice of Right to Sue" the employee must file their
lawsuit in court within 90 days. Other laws, such as the District of Columbia
Human Rights Act, may allow an individual to file suit without first going
to the EEOC.
Private Sector Employers
Similarly, for employers in the private sector, employee disputes can be
the most difficult and complex part of running a business. The Federal
Practice Group Worldwide Service handles employment disputes and investigations
- Workplace and Sexual Harassment Investigations
- Negotiating Contracts
- Employment and Severance Agreements
- Covenants Not to Compete
- Discrimination Cases
- Reviewing/Preparing Employee Handbooks and Employment Manuals
- Preventative Counseling and Legal Compliance
- Litigation and Appeals