Discriminatory Firing


It Happened to Me: Discriminatory Firing


Where is the law regarding discrimination in Firing Practices in Maryland found?


Discriminatory discharge is prohibited by Maryland Code, Article 49B, § 16(a)


Under Maryland law, what is illegal?


It is illegal for employers to discharge an individual because of such individual's sex.


Does the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act apply to my employer?


The Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act applies to almost all Maryland employers, employment agencies, and labor organizations. This law does not cover private membership clubs (other than labor unions) and elected officials. It also does not include religious corporations, associations, educational institutions or societies with respect to the employment of individuals of a particular religion or sexual orientation to perform its activities.


Who enforces these retaliation laws?


The Maryland Commission on Human Relations enforces state law discriminatory firing claims. The EEOC enforces federal claims brought under Title VII.


Under this law, for what reasons can I be fired?


It is legal for an employer to terminate your employment for any reason that is not discriminatory. Inadequate work or frequent absences are examples of justified reasons for discharge. Termination solely on the basis of gender is never permissible.


What must I prove to win my case?


To win on a case for discriminatory discharge under Maryland law, you must show that:
(1) you are a member of a protected class; and
(2) your employment would not have been terminated if not for your membership in the protected class.


What is an example of disparate impact in discriminatory firing?


Disparate impact is a theory of discrimination that prohibits practices that seem fair but are discriminatory in operation. "The adverse effect of a facially neutral practice (especially an employment practice) that nonetheless discriminates against persons because of their race, sex, national origin, age, or disability and that is not justified by business necessity." Intent is not needed to prove disparate impact.


If a company downsizes a higher percentage of employees in one department than another, this might be disparate impact if that department has a higher percentage of women than men.


What is an example of disparate treatment in discriminatory firing?


Disparate treatment is a theory of discrimination that prohibits overt discrimination. "The practice, especially in employment, of intentionally dealing with persons differently because of their race, sex, national origin, age, or disability."


If an employer gives warnings to male employees but not to female employees, this is Disparate treatment because it adversely affects female employees and not male employees.


How do I prove that I am a member of a protected class?


Women are automatically considered to be a protected class under Maryland law.


What could my employer do to deny my allegations, and how do I respond to its denials?


Once you have shown that gender is what motivated discharge, the burden shifts to the employer to show a nondiscriminatory reason for discharge. Finally, you would need to prove, by a preponderance of evidence, that the defendant's nondiscriminatory reasons were "a pretext for discrimination."


If the same person who fired you was the person who hired you, employers can argue that the firing must not have been discriminatory. This is called the "same actor inference." Courts will only apply this inference when there is no direct evidence showing a discriminatory reason for the discharge. If you cannot provide direct evidence of discrimination, it will be more difficult to win a claim because of the "same actor inference."


What could be considered direct evidence?


Direct evidence could be any acknowledgment by your employer that gender is what motivated the discharge. This does not need to be in writing, and can simply be your testimony about a conversation that you had with the employer.


When might the court find in my employer's favor?


The court could find in favor of the employer if it can prove that there was a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for the discharge.


Does it matter when I was discriminated against?


The claim must be filed with the MCHR within six months of the date that the last discriminatory act or event at issue took place.


Determining distinct acts of discrimination can be difficult because you may not know right away that you have been discriminated against or you might think there isn't strong enough evidence. Also, discrimination may not occur at one distinct time. Nevertheless, it is very important that you file your charge with the MCHR as soon as you suspect discrimination. If you wait too long such that the retaliatory act happened prior to six months ago, your charge will be invalid.


How do I go about filing a claim for discriminatory firing?


For more information, see How do I File a Claim


What are some other online resources I can look at?


For information about filing state claims, see The Maryland Commission on Human Relations


For information about filing federal claims, see Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



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