Maryland News & Analysis

  • EEOC vs. Baltimore County over pension contributions—Round 3

    As we reported in the September 2016 issue of Maryland Employment Law Letter, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has been engaged in contentious litigation with Baltimore County over certain pension fund contributions for more than 16 years (see "District court to EEOC: You snooze, you lose out on enhanced damages" on pg. 3 of that issue). The dispute was extended by at least another two years after the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals (whose rulings apply to all Maryland employers) handed down yet another published decision on September 19, 2018, addressing the pension issues. Let's take a closer look at the 4th Circuit's recent decision.

  • Carefully worded complaint results in case being sent back to state court

    As many Maryland employers know, it's probably better to face a lawsuit brought by an employee in federal court rather than state court. For a number of reasons, employers believe their defenses are considered more carefully at the federal level and will usually attempt to have a case removed from state court if there's a legal basis to do so. However, a recent decision from the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland should serve as a reminder that the removal of a case from state court to federal court isn't automatic. As the district court emphasized, to remove a state court case on the grounds of diversity (the parties are from different states), the federal court must have jurisdiction to hear the claim. If it doesn't, the case will be remanded, or sent back, to the state court.

  • Maryland district court zeroes out accountant's untimely § 1981 claim against UMB

    A recent decision from the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland should serve as a reminder that employment claims must be filed in a timely manner. Determining the appropriate statute of limitations in many discrimination statutes is rather straightforward. However, claims arising under 42 U.S.C. 1981, a part of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 that prohibits race discrimination, often present unique circumstances that deserve careful consideration.

  • Local nursing home prevails in race discrimination case

    On October 1, 2018, a federal jury handed down a verdict in favor of Patapsco Valley Center, a Maryland nursing home accused of failing to remedy a hostile work environment and engaging in discrimination based on an employee's race and national origin.

  • Agency Action

    OFCCP releases directives on equal employment and religious freedom. The U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) in August issued two new policy directives, one focused on equal employment opportunity and the other addressing religious freedom. The equal employment opportunity directive calls for more comprehensive reviews of contractor compliance with federal antidiscrimination laws. The religious freedom directive is aimed at protecting the rights of religion-exercising organizations. The DOL said it is implementing a comprehensive compliance initiative that will include adding focused reviews to its compliance activities. The religious freedom directive instructs OFCCP staff to take into account recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions and White House Executive Orders that protect religious freedom.

  • Workplace Trends

    Salary increases expected to remain flat. Research from workforce consulting firm Mercer shows salary increase budgets for U.S. employees are at 2.8% in 2018—no change from 2017. Salary increase budgets for 2019 are projected to be just 2.9%, despite factors like the tightening labor market and a high rate of workers voluntarily quitting their jobs. The information comes from Mercer's "2018/2019 US Compensation Planning Survey." Mercer's research shows that even newly available investment dollars from the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act aren't enhancing the compensation budgets for most companies. Mercer says just 4% of organizations have redirected some of their anticipated tax savings to their salary increase budgets.

  • 4th Circuit dropkicks NLRB's injunction request

    As some Maryland employers may be aware, litigating unfair labor practice (ULP) complaints with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) can be very challenging. Not only can the NLRB file an administrative complaint against the employer, forcing it to proceed through a formal hearing and an appeal—first to the NLRB and eventually to the U.S. circuit courts of appeals—but the Board also has a very effective tool in Section 10(j) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). That provision allows the NLRB to go immediately into U.S. district court and seek injunctive relief against the employer, which at that time has been accused only of committing a ULP. Traditionally, seeking a 10(j) injunction was considered an extraordinary remedy to be used only in the most egregious cases. The Obama Board aggressively used 10(j) injunctions in numerous cases in which the alleged ULPs didn't cause irreparable harm.

  • Don't forget to properly classify independent contractors

    You likely recall a time not so long ago when the improper classification of employees as independent contractors was the hot topic for the IRS and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). In 2011, the agencies entered into a "Memorandum of Understanding" in which they agreed to share information about potential misclassifications in an effort to crack down on the common practice. The DOL also entered into similar agreements with roughly 30 state departments of labor.

  • DOL issues FMLA opinion letters after a long break

    For the first time in nearly a decade, the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) has issued opinion letters interpreting the requirements of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This may be a sign that the Trump administration intends to rely heavily on opinion letters as a form of guidance for employers, a practice that had been discarded by the Obama administration.

  • Maryland homecare agency agrees to pay $40,000 to settle disability discrimination lawsuit

    On September 4, 2018, M&R Consulting, LLC—a Towson, Maryland-based homecare agency doing business as Home Instead Senior Care—agreed to pay $40,000 and furnish significant equitable relief to settle an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) disability discrimination lawsuit.