Articles Posted in General Employment

When you’re hired, your employer will often tell you that you are an “at-will” employee. The next time you usually hear that phrase is when you’re fired. Employers rely on this “legal principle” to justify firing employees for any and every possible reason. In fact, employers often say that because Maryland is an “at-will” employment state, they can fire any employee for any reason at any time. While there is a lot of truth to this statement, there are important exceptions.

So what does “at will” employment really mean? Well, it is true that an employer can terminate your employment for nearly any reason. If an employer does not like your attitude, you can be fired. If you make a single, minor mistake on the job, you can be fired. If you fail to follow a rule or come to work five minutes late, you can be fired. If you tell a dumb joke or make an inappropriate comment you can be fired. In other words, you can be fired for nearly any reason that your employer wants to fire you.

Luckily, there are several important exceptions. First, your employer may not be able to fire you if you have a written (or sometimes verbal) contract that limits the reasons for termination. Second, you cannot be fired for discriminatory reasons, such as your age, gender, race, national origin or disability. Third, you cannot be fired for filing a workers compensation claim, or for demanding proper wages or overtime pay, or for taking time off for medical reasons or to take care of family members (depending on the size of your employer). Finally, you cannot be fired if your termination would be contrary to public policy, such as if you are a whistleblower or are engaging in conduct that is protected by law.

After nearly 15 years practicing litigation in large and small law firms, I’ve decided to open my own employment law shop — sexual harassment, employment discrimination, overtime pay, bonuses and commissions, breach of contract, family leave, unemployment appeals — all the areas of law that challenge me intellectually while allowing me to actually help real people, not faceless corporations. While I’ve handled these types of cases for both plaintiffs and defendants in the past, this will be a different challenge because I am responsible for picking the clients, I am responsible for preparing the cases, and, ultimately, I am responsible for winning the cases. A challenge, yes, but I am up to the task!

What spurred me to pursue this risky route and give up a safe, well-paying job at a well-respected Baltimore law firm? Probably seeing how successful I have been handling a few employment cases each year, and seeing how much personal satisfaction I’ve received from those cases, was what convinced me that I could practice law that I enjoy practicing while making a good living. Isn’t that what every lawyer wants?

So my plan is to set forth my thoughts, ideas, analyses, experiences, hopes, fears, disappointments and successes — in other words, to communicate what it is like being a solo employment lawyer and to talk about employment law — cases, statutes, court rulings, news stories. Anything and everything that Maryland employment lawyers and persons seeking to learn about employment law in Maryland might want to discuss. That’s the plan, we’ll put it into practice shortly. The end.