We have for many years represented individuals in Maryland who have been denied unemployment benefits (or where the employer filed an appeal). Many people do not understand the appeals process but call us to help them. An initial determination by a DLLR claims adjudicator can be appealed to the Lower Appeals Department where, traditionally, an in-person hearing would be scheduled. The hearing would function as a trial whereby both the employee and the employer (who typically has a monetary interest in contesting a claimant’s potential entitlement to unemployment benefits) give testimony under oath and produce documents for the consideration by the hearing examiner. At the beginning of the year, DLLR largely stopped scheduling in person hearings. Since then, the vast majority of hearings are scheduled by phone instead. For a number of reasons, phone hearings pose great challenges to claimants, especially if one has never attended an unemployment appeals hearing before. So, if you are denied benefits, or an employer appeals a determination by DLLR to grant you benefits, do not go into a hearing on your own. We have handled hundreds of hearings for many years and are happy to talk to you to figure out how we may be able to increase the chances of securing your benefits.
At any given time, our office represents a multitude of practitioners throughout Maryland before various Maryland disciplinary boards — many before the Maryland Board of Nursing (“MBON”). Most practitioners come to us devastated from having learned that a complaint has been filed against them. While such a reaction is understandable, this is not a time to panic. It is, however, time to make sure that retain an attorney who has great knowledge and familiarity with the disciplinary process and can immediately step in and defend you.
The disciplinary process is typically long-lasting — often in excess of a year — and may include several critical steps, none of which a practitioner should undertake on their own. Recently, MBON has attempted to streamline the process. One aspect of their streamlined process involves what used to be called settlement conferences — now called “case resolution conferences.” At such a conference, the prosecutor, who is tasked with charging the practitioner with violations of the law, will represent to the Board why discipline (and what kind) is appropriate as a punishment. The practitioner, or their attorney, can respond to these charges (and often can negotiate directly with the prosecutor) for a result that is much more palatable.
We are excited to report that in the last few weeks, we have successfully defended against charges filed against several nurses — all of which were fully dismissed without any consequences to our clients at the case resolution conference.
In any given year, we represent a multitude of individuals who have filed claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) in Baltimore, Maryland because they contend they have been subjected to illegal discrimination, retaliation, and/or sexual harassment in the workplace.
The EEOC process is lengthy – it can actually take years before the Commission makes a finding, and the reality is that in more than ninety percent of cases, the EEOC does not find in favor of the complainant. To avoid that, the EEOC often asks the charging party (the individual filing the claim) and respondent (the employer) if the parties are interested in participating in mediation. Participation is voluntary but many cases are assigned to mediation because both parties are willing to try to resolve the dispute early. In our experience, most mediations that we are involved in result in a favorable settlement – but not all. When there is no resolution, the charge is eventually assigned to an investigator for processing. That process is what takes such a long time because the investigators are flooded with complaints (more than a thousand per year are received at the Baltimore EEOC Field Office) and they have limited resources. Many charging parties do not have the patience or the commitment to stay the course for a long period of time because they usually find work elsewhere and decide to move on from what may have happened at their previous place of employment.
If you have been notified by the EEOC that mediation is or will be scheduled in your case, you may be asking yourself if it is a good idea to be represented by a lawyer – we always emphatically answer that question in the affirmative – representing yourself at an EEOC mediation will likely not garner a successful result. Most respondents are represented by at least one lawyer so attending mediation without your own counsel will send a signal that you are not serious about your complaint – that’s a big mistake. So if you are about to participate in the EEOC mediation process, call us – we can help!
Our office handles many different forms of professional disciplinary matters – including complaints and hearing before the Maryland Board of Nursing (“MBON”), but also before the Maryland Board of Physical Therapy Examiners. As any practitioner who has received a letter from one of the disciplinary boards will tell you, it is not a pleasant feeling. If you do receive such a letter, notifying you that a complaint has been filed against you, you should make sure you contact an attorney immediately. Providing incorrect information to a disciplinary board could have devastating impact on your professional license.
Recently, we received an inquiry from a physical therapist who had just received such a letter from the Board of Physical Therapy Examiners. The client was understandably nervous and did not know what to do. We met with the client and properly researched the numerous allegations against him. We then contacted the Board Investigator, arranged to review their complaint file concerning the allegations against our client, and requested a settlement conference. At the settlement conference, we were able to zealously advocate for our client and ultimately, the Board agreed to dismiss all charges. Of course, our client, whose livelihood was threatened by potential discipline, could not have been happier with the result.
So, keep this story in mind and please call us if you have any issues arise with any Maryland professional disciplinary board.
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.