Articles Posted in General Employment

Well, I cannot really make a generalization about the way that employers treat employees, but what I can comment on is the fact that since I opened my law practice eight years ago, focusing on helping individual employees who have been sexually harassed, subjected to racial, religious, gender or age discrimination, wrongfully terminated, trapped by unreasonable noncompete and non-solicitation agreements, denied unemployment based on false allegations of misconduct, and on and on and on, we have received more than 21,500 intake forms by individuals looking to retain counsel!  21,500!  That’s a large town (or a small city) worth of people who believed, rightly or wrongly, that they were mistreated or treated unlawfully by their current or former employers.  If only employers would treat their employees — even those employees that they don’t like or want to leave — with dignity and respect, maybe my job would be a little bit easier.  Alas, that has not happened, and does not appear likely to happen anytime soon.  So, I think my job is pretty safe. . . .

Some time ago, a client came to us with a very serious problem.  Our client, a nurse practitioner with an active license in two states, had just been informed that the Maryland Board of Nursing had immediately suspended her as a result of receiving a complaint from a former employer.  The Board scheduled a Show Cause hearing to allow our client an opportunity to defend against the allegations.  Show Cause hearings are extremely serious matters, and the Board is rarely inclined to allow the practitioner to resume working until a full investigation has been conducted – a process that could take months, sometimes more than a year – obviously devastating to someone who relies on their profession to provide for their family.

Fortunately, our client avoided making the mistake that practitioners sometimes do – she contacted an attorney immediately.  We vigorously defended against the charges at the hearing and, to our client’s great relief, learned shortly thereafter that the suspension had been lifted – our client was free to resume work!

While the suspension had been lifted, the complaint did not go away.  Before a full investigation had been completed, the Board scheduled a settlement conference – a settlement conference is a terrific opportunity to try to resolve a complaint without a full evidentiary hearing.  We routinely represent practitioners at such conferences and have been able to resolve many complaints that way.  Moreover, it’s typically not a good idea for a practitioner to represent themselves at such conferences (or at any other point while the case is with the Board for that matter).  In the end, we successfully resolved the matter – our client agreed to take a few internet continuing education courses in return for dismissal of the complaint.  Given the serious allegations filed against our client, it was the best outcome we could have hoped for!

We’ve been serving our clients in Maryland for nearly six years, and believe it or not, we recently received our nineteen-thousandth intake inquiry!  Yes, we have had 19,000 people contact our office seeking our legal services in less than six years.  Lately, we have been averaging between 300 to 400 inquiries every month, and we typically arrange paid legal analysis consultations with about 4o people each month.  Of those, we end up taking ten to fifteen new cases each month, many of which are resolved through a settlement within three months.  Where we cannot negotiate a settlement, we pursue the matter through the EEOC or the Maryland Civil Rights Commission, and then sometimes end up litigating the matter in state or federal court.  I always tell people that if we cannot settle the matter, and we end up going through the EEOC or the Maryland Civil Rights Commission and then go to court, it will be a three to four year process.  As they say, the wheels of justice turn slowly. . .

We frequently represent Maryland practitioners who work throughout the state before the Maryland Board of Social Examiners, Maryland Board of Nursing, and Maryland Board of Physical Therapy Examiners. The majority (but not all) of our clients come to us early on, typically shortly after the licensure board has made initial contact with the practitioner. Such contact is normally made by letter notifying the practitioner that a complaint has been filed with the particular board, and allowing the practitioner an opportunity to respond to the complaint and explain their side of the story. Optimally, this is the best time to contact us so that we can get control of the situation before things get too challenging!

We realize that receiving notification from the board that a complaint has been filed often affects the practitioner’s emotional well-being and physical health. Besides working toward resolving the underlying issue(s) of the complaint, it is important to have an attorney stand by your side during this trying process — someone who has the know-how and experience to deal with such an investigation and who is emotionally separated from the complaint. Having such representation can significantly reduce your stress level.

There are many “do’s and don’ts” when it comes to dealing with the licensure boards. For one thing, it is imperative to inform the board that the practitioner is taking the situation extremely seriously (even if there is complete disagreement with the facts asserted in the complaint). Hiring an attorney to represent you through this arduous and often tasking ordeal shows the board that the practitioner is, in fact, taking the complaint in the serious manner that it should be taken.

On a routine basis, we receive inquiries from employees who work for the school systems in Baltimore City and Baltimore County. Their concerns vary from disagreeing with an evaluation to challenging a termination recommendation. Many school employees contact us because they believe they are being treated unfairly or illegally. We have been successful defending employees in such matters, both internally with the City and the County, but also before the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights (MCCR) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Our approach varies depending on the circumstances. Sometimes, a well-crafted letter is all that is needed. In other situations, our attendance at a meeting, conference, or hearing may be required.

Often, it is imperative that an attorney get involved early on to try to avoid further adverse action that could, in the end, result in termination. Unfortunately, many people decide to hold off calling us until it is too late — when a lot of work is required and the likelihood of success is significantly reduced. Therefore, if you find yourself in a difficult or troubling legal situation as a teacher, teaching assistant, principal, assistant principal or administrator, don’t delay seeking legal assistance. We are happy to talk to you and figure out how we can alleviate your problems.

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.

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.