In the last several months, we have noticed a significant up-tick in the number of individuals who call us to represent them at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) or the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights (“MCCR”). Because of a work-share agreement, we have also noticed that many complaints that are initially filed with the EEOC are “farmed out” (per the work-share agreement) to the MCCR for handling. Most of the time, individuals want us to represent them at a fact-finding conference or mediation -- but many are also calling us because the investigator has provided the complainant with the employer’s position statement. The position statement is the employer’s/respondent’s written response to the complaint. The EEOC or MCCR allows the complainant the opportunity to respond to the employer’s position statement by filing a written rebuttal. Since the position statement is usually written by an attorney representing the employer, the complainant often finds writing the rebuttal to be a daunting and overwhelming task, especially since the position statement typically includes legal arguments that the complainant is likely unfamiliar with. Crafting a well-composed rebuttal is a critical exercise because this is often the complainant’s final opportunity to respond to the employer’s defense before the agency makes a decision about whether an illegal action has occurred. Don’t make the mistake of spending countless hours worrying about this matter and trying to respond to the employer yourself – let an experienced attorney handle it for you. The majority of our callers reside within the greater Baltimore Metro area, but we represent clients throughout the state of Maryland. The Law Office of Andrew Dansicker is always willing to listen to your concerns and we routinely handle all matters, including filing rebuttals to employer position statements, before the EEOC and the MCCR.
We have been representing more and more plaintiffs in EEOC mediations, as well as mediations at the Maryland Civil Rights Commission, for several reasons. First, when individuals represent themselves in a mediation, they really do not know the strengths and weaknesses of their cases, so they don't know how to determine a fair and reasonable settlement amount. Thus, we often get calls from people after their mediation, when they are having second thoughts about having settled for far too little, or having not settled because they were asking for far too much. Second, having an attorney shows the employer that you are serious, and that you have convinced an attorney of the merits of your case. We strongly believe that this fact results in significantly higher settlement amounts. Finally, having an attorney represent you at a mediation greatly reduces the pressure and stress that you will face when trying to handle a mediation on your own. It is important to remember that the mediator and the staff in the mediation office are not on "your" side -- they are required to be neutral, and the reality is that they have a self-interest in making the case settle, whether the terms are fair to you or not, because they measure their success by looking at how many cases they settle.
So, if you have an upcoming mediation scheduled, or have been asked if you want to participate in mediation, give us a call immediately, and we will discuss the pros and cons of retaining us to represent you at mediation. If you retain our services, we will meet with you to learn the details of your case, present you with our fair analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of your case, and tell you what we think a fair settlement value would be, assuming that the employer is willing to negotiate in good faith. We will also prepare you to talk during the mediation, and we will accompany you to the mediation and negotiate on your behalf. If you have any questions about mediation, please feel free to call us for a free initial telephone consultation.
In any given month, we receive at least two to three dozen inquiries from individuals who are employed in the public sector in Maryland -- individuals who work for Baltimore City, one of the counties, a state agency, or even practitioners who are being investigated by the Maryland Board of Nursing or the Maryland Pharmacy Board. Invariably, these individuals contact us because their employer has taken, or is about to take adverse action against them. These adverse action range from suspensions to demotions, but often unfortunately also involve recommendations for termination. The workers who call us are understandably upset by what is happening and need guidance and help at a desperate and chaotic time in their lives when they are often unable to think clearly for themselves.
We are pleased to report that we continue to expand our practice in this area and have successfully dealt with many local and state agencies on a recurring basis. Recently, we were able to clear a pharmacy tech of all charges in exchange for taking two on-line courses. Our client was terrified of losing his ability to practice, but with our help, his license was not suspended or terminated. We also represented a Baltimore City school teacher with nearly thirty years of experience who was recommended for termination. We contacted the School Board and asked for a clarification of their intention to terminate her employment. A few weeks later, the recommendation was rescinded, and our client was allowed to resume work. In still another recent matter, we represented a Baltimore County worker who had been accused of harassing a coworker and ultimately was recommended for termination. Our client maintained that he was innocent of the charges. The county initially showed no interest in trying to settle the matter, but after the initial hearing, the county approached us about settling the matter. We are happy to report that our client is now back at work!
We often receive calls or emails from potential clients who want to file an EEOC charge or have already filed an EEOC charge and are confused about the process. We generally do not assist people with filing an EEOC charge, but we are often retained by clients to assist them at various points during the EEOC process. So the following article will briefly explain the EEOC process and where we can get involved and assist you.
The first step is filing an EEOC charge (or complaint) against your current or former employer for discrimination or harassment or retaliation. You can do so by filling out a form on the EEOC's website (eeoc.gov) or by going in person to the EEOC's office on South Howard Street in Baltimore City (which we highly recommend). Your charge must be filed within 300 days of the date of the harassment or retaliation or termination, and the EEOC intake investigator will help you fill out the necessary forms.
After your charge is filed, the EEOC will normally send a copy to your employer and ask if they want to participate in the EEOC's mediation program. If your employer wants to try to mediate the matter, we always strongly encourage our clients to agree to mediation, because it often results in a resolution of the matter. That is the first point in the process where we are often hired by clients to represent them, as we are very familiar with the mediation process and can assist you with analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of your case and negotiating with your former employer (and their attorneys). If the employer does not agree to mediation, then the employer will be required to submit a position statement, which is a written statement of their response to your allegations. You may then be asked to submit a rebuttal to the employer's position statement. That is the second point in the process where clients often hire us to assist them, because we frequently draft rebuttal statements.
The case will then be assigned to an investigator who will investigate the case, but that process often takes 12-24 months to complete. In some cases, the investigator will conduct a "fact-finding conference" where the investigator has both parties meet with the investigator at the EEOC to discuss the allegations and the facts underlying the case. That is the third point where clients often hire us to represent them. Finally, the investigator will issue a decision, and the EEOC will either find "cause" to believe that discrimination or harassment or retaliation has occurred, or the EEOC will not find "cause" and will simply issue you a "right to sue" letter, which means that you have 90 days to file suit in court or your rights will be lost forever. That is the final point where we are often retained by clients -- either to participate in the "conciliation" process if the EEOC has found "cause", or to review a case to determine if we want to take the case to court.
If you have any questions about your EEOC case or filing an EEOC case, give us a call or send us an email and we will try to assist you.
In any given month, we represent numerous claimants at unemployment appeals hearings. What many are not aware of is that we also represent employers in such matters. In fact, we often receive inquiries from employers if we can represent them at such hearings, and the answer is yes! Our experience and knowledge in handling both claimants and employers put our clients at a distinct advantage because we are familiar with and possess the know-how of representing both sides. Should your company find that the DLLR has made the wrong decision in awarding an individual unemployment benefits, or should an employee appeal a decision that could adversely affect your tax and reporting obligations, do not wait to take action. We will gladly take the stress from you and handle the case from start to end. We vigorously pursue these matters and to date have never lost an unemployment appeals hearing where we represented the employer!
In any given month, we receive a multitude of inquiries from individuals who have been denied unemployment insurance benefits and wish to file an appeal. As a result, we handle many unemployment appeals, we have developed a very strong track record where we win the majority of our hearings, and we have established ourselves as one of the preeminent law firms in Baltimore and Maryland for unemployment appeals.
When individuals call to ask how we can help them, we urge them to make sure they are represented by counsel at the first hearing, the lower appeal, since that is each party's final guaranteed opportunity to fully tell their story. It is also the step where we have the highest success. Unfortunately, not everyone heeds our advice or finds us until after the first hearing has concluded. Appeals beyond the lower appeals hearing take months to resolve, cost more, and the higher the appeal goes the more difficult it gets. Despite the high level of difficulty, we often represent individuals with appeals to the DLLR Board of Appeals as well as with petitions for review to circuit court. Most firms will not handle these matters because by many attorneys' calculations, they are not worth their time, and appeals at the circuit court level are by many considered to be nearly impossible to win.
Our philosophy is different. Optimally, we wish everyone retained counsel for the lower appeal, but we will not turn away individuals in need simply because we have not represented them at the first hearing -- if we believe we have a chance to win in court. As a result, we are happy to report that we have recently scored a string of victories at both the DLLR board level as well as with the circuit court. These successful appeals have had profound impact on our clients, many reporting that the win was the difference between being able to pay their bills, keeping their automobiles, or even their homes.
We've noticed over the years that, come December and January, we start to get a slew of phone calls and emails from employees who were either terminated in late December, apparently by employers who think that they can avoid paying bonuses by terminating employees before the end of the year, or who quit their jobs in January and are told that because they are not employed when their annual bonus is paid, they have forfeited their bonus. Nothing could be further from the truth. Under Maryland law, if an employee earns a bonus or commission, then the employee must be paid for their work -- regardless of whether they are still employed on the date that the bonus or commission is scheduled to be paid by the employer. In fact, employers risk having to pay liquidated damages, either double or treble damages, as well as attorneys' fees and costs for refusing to pay such bonus or commission payments. If you are in this situation, give us a call or send us an email and we will let you know if we think we can assist you with your potential case.
Typically, when a city, county, or state worker is subjected to adverse action, such as a suspension, demotion, or termination, the worker has certain administrative appeal rights after the action has been taken. We frequently represent such workers, including employees of various school systems and state and city departments, and have established an excellent track record assisting our clients. Most recently, we were able to assist a social worker working for the Maryland Department of Social Services who after several years of successful tenure was unexpectedly discharged for what we argued was a relatively minor infraction. We challenged the termination and pursued the appeal aggressively. Within a short period of time, we were able to put the employee back in their original position but under a different supervisor. Our client has been able to resume his career and, suffice to say, our client couldn’t be more satisfied. If you are in a similar situation, give us a call for a free telephone consultation.
We are excited to announce that Andrew Dansicker was one of only a handful of Baltimore metropolitan area plaintiff's employment attorneys recognized last week in the Baltimore Sun and Washington Post as a Top Rated Lawyer as chosen by LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell, the company that has long set the standard for attorney peer review ratings. The ratings were published in a special section recognizing those attorneys who have attained AV Preeminent rankings by Martindale-Hubbell. Mr. Dansicker was also quoted in the Baltimore Sun earlier last week in an article about the pending sexual harassment case involving John Leopold.
We frequently represent federal employees, including federal employees working for Social Security, Postal Service, Army, Navy, Homeland Security and other federal agencies, in various EEOC matters, including discrimination, sexual and racial harassment and retaliation. We are happy to report that in the span of a short period of time, we have been able to help several USPS employees who were treated disparately and unfairly. These workers turned to us at a difficult time in their lives, and we were able to provide necessary and long overdue relief. For example, in one case involving pregnancy discrimination, we successfully negotiated for relocation, payment of attorney’s fees, and a significant cash settlement. In another case involving failure to accommodate a disability, we secured the proper accommodation, restoration of leave, and a cash settlement. Importantly, our clients achieved closure and have been able to successfully resume their careers with the Postal Service.
Our firm has represented hundreds of claimants at unemployment appeals over the last several years. While it’s sometimes difficult for a claimant to raise the fee of twice their weekly benefit amount (since most have been denied benefits and remain unemployed), we believe our representation is a critical investment. We can never guarantee a successful outcome, but we have established an excellent track record. Sometimes, a claimant tells us that they will handle the hearing on their own, but will call us if they have to appeal to the board or later, circuit court. This is a bad idea. We occasionally handle such appeals, but they are very difficult, they cost more, and they take a long time to resolve. Most people don’t realize that the lower appeals hearing before a hearing examiner is the last step at which the parties have the absolute right to present evidence. It is therefore imperative that you come fully prepared; that you have an attorney with you who knows the law, knows the procedure, knows what to do and say, and knows the pitfalls to avoid. Don’t make the same mistake so many people do who call us too late – make sure we are there to help you at the lower appeal!
In an earlier blog entry from September of 2010, we reported that when a claimant has misreported his or her wages to the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation ("DLLR") while seeking unemployment insurance benefits, it is difficult for us to reverse the decision. Typically, when a claimant fails to accurately report his or her earnings, the DLLR has the right to recoup any benefits paid out as a result of the inaccurate phone or web certification. Consequently, in such cases, the DLLR will issue a finding of fraud, which becomes a part of the claimant's state record. Such a finding can be troublesome to anyone seeking employment, whether in the public or private sector. We are happy to report that through our involvement in an appeal, the DLLR Board of Appeals recently issued a favorable decision that now often allows us to successfully argue for the removal of fraud. Therefore, if the DLLR is demanding for you to pay back benefits, citing that you have committed fraud, call us to help you.