Articles Posted in General Employment

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.

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.

Sometimes, an employer’s adverse action against a worker has consequences beyond the employer/employee relationship — consequences that can impact one’s profession. For example, we regularly defend nurses before the Maryland Board of Nursing (“MBON”) concerning alleged violations. When a nurse has been counseled or discharged by the employer for a work infraction, the conduct may be reported to MBON. MBON, then, often seeks to investigate the alleged impropriety and can subsequently take action, including suspending or revoking the nurse’s license. This process is slow, taxing, and often stressful since the outcome of the investigation and the impact on the nurse’s license is uncertain. We are often called on to assist navigating through this arduous journey because the nurse realizes the potentially serious outcome. Action against a nurse’s license can severely hamper one’s ability to practice, so it is imperative that you get all the help you can in order to prevail. MBON does a good job advising nurses of their right to counsel, but not everyone heeds their advice, thereby compromising their ability to defend themselves. Make sure you follow MBON’s advice — don’t go it alone — hire us to help you.

We are receiving a large volume of calls from state and federally employees with pressing employment situations. They are workers who are facing serious adverse action — demotions, suspensions, and most frequently, terminations of employment. Our law firm has been quick to respond to these workers’ needs, and we are happy to report that we have established a stellar resolution record.

In some cases, our involvement early on has resulted in immediate reversal of the employer’s action. Sometimes, this can be accomplished by a phone call or a well-crafted letter. For example, we recently assisted a Baltimore County worker employed in the school system who was facing a multi-step demotion, resulting in thousands of dollars in lost income annually. We immediately stepped in and the worker’s position and salary were reinstated.

In other situations, when a phone call or letter do not suffice, we arrange for face-to-face meetings with the employer, sometimes through settlement conferences, and there we are typically able to achieve an outcome that the worker and we believe is desirable and just. In one recent case involving a Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) employee of twenty years, we were successfully able to convince the agency to conditions and terms that the agency disclosed had not previously been agreed to for someone in a similar work position as our client. In a case involving a Baltimore City Department of Social Services (DSS) worker with a most troublesome performance record, we successfully obtained settlement that included monetary compensation and, since the worker had no desire to return to the department, the department’s termination for gross misconduct was converted into a voluntary resignation with a favorable reference — all to make sure the worker’s future employment prospects, whether public or private sector, were not hampered in any way.

In the past six months, we have started expanding our employment law practice to represent federal, state and local government employees in administrative hearings, typically terminations, demotions or disciplinary actions, such as suspensions. We successfully represented a client through an internal Social Security Administration administrative appeal concerning serious disciplinary charges relating to alleged sexual harassment of a coworker. We also successfully represented a federal employee with more than 20 years experience who was improperly discharged — he was reinstated, his record was cleared of any wrong-doing, he was transferred to a more desirable location, and his attorneys’ fees and costs were reimbursed. Finally, we have assisted several nurses in investigations before the Maryland Board of Nursing. In one particularly compelling case where very serious charges of sexual misconduct were brought against a nurse that could have resulted in license revocation, we were able to successfully negotiate charges to a reprimand. If you are a teacher, a nurse, an administrator, or any other type of government employee, and you are facing an administrative hearing at the Office of Administrative Hearings or with an internal board or panel, give us a call so we can discuss your case.

We’ve been noticing a significant uptick in the number of persons contacting us looking for representation relating to internal grievance proceedings, administrative law proceedings and internal appeals, primarily for government employees but also for some private employees. Sometimes, as with employees of the Board of Education or public universities, these hearings may be held internally, and sometimes, as with Maryland state agencies, these hearings may be held at the Office of Administrative Hearings in Hunt Valley, Maryland. It is important to keep in mind that these hearings tend to be held on a fairly short time frame, involving an intense amount of work preparing for the hearing, so if you need an attorney for such a hearing, please contact us as soon as possible before the hearing — waiting for the last minute is not wise!

Well, its been a very busy few months, but one of the recent highlights was the 20th Anniversary Gala for the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland, where Andrew Dansicker was honored with a Certificate of Congressional Recognition from Congressman Steny Hoyer and an award from Chief Judge Robert Bell for committment to pro bono services during the past several years. During that time, our office has represented several indigent clients without charge, and we have volunteered hundreds of hours towards providing free employment law advice to persons who could not afford attorneys. The recognition reads as follows: “As an employment law attorney representing both employees and employers in all facets of employment law in Maryland, Andrew Dansicker has volunteered over one hundred hours on the Women’s Law Center Employment Law Hotline during the past three years. Dansicker, a regular volunteer at the Baltimore City and Baltimore County Bar Associations’ Lawyer Referral Services, has also handled numerous pro bono cases for the ACLU of Maryland, including cases involving public drug testing of high school students in their school cafeteria on the Eastern Shore, use of marijuana for medical purposes by a dairy farmer with AIDS in Southern Maryland, civil forfeiture, First Amendment issues and blind voter access issues.” We will continue to provide pro bono services where possible, even as we expand our employment law practice!

One of the most common questions that we have been receiving lately has to do with whether a person can obtain unemployment benefits if they are also receiving severance pay. Unfortunately, in the past, Maryland employees could sometimes obtain unemployment benefits even if they were being paid severance (if their position was abolished). That law changed last year, however, and now claimants who are begin paid severance are ineligible to collect unemployment benefits during the time frame when they are receiving severance payments. If they receive a lump sum severance payment, then the Department of Labor will determine how many weeks of salary would be covered by the severance payment, and the claimant will be disqualified for that time frame.

A more complicated issue is whether a person can receive unemployment benefits when they are fired from a company and then negotiate a settlement in return for signing a release stating that they will not sue for discrimination or sexual harassment or similar illegal conduct, where the person actually was subjected to such discrimination or harassment. In those cases, a strong argument can be made that the monies received are not severance payments for the loss of the job, but rather compensation payments for releasing a potentially viable discrimination or harassment claim. To prove such entitlement to unemployment benefits, however, the claimant typically has to file an appeal and appear before a Hearing Examiner.

In the event that you are facing such a situation, please give us a call or send us an email so we can determine if we can assist you.