It Happened to Me: Retaliation


What is retaliation?


Retaliation is an adverse employment action that is taken in response to an individual's exercise of constitutionally protected rights.


What is considered adverse employment action?


In a retaliation claim, adverse employment action must involve an ultimate employment decision. This could include a decision for hiring, granting leave, discharging, promoting, or compensating.


Where is the law regarding retaliation practices in Maryland found?


Retaliatory firing is prohibited by Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act


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.


Under Maryland law, what is illegal?


It is illegal for any employment practice to take adverse employment action against any employee for participating in a legal action against the employment practice that is based under anti-discrimination laws. If your employer fires, refuses to promote, or takes any other adverse employment action against you for bringing forth a discrimination claim, you have suffered from illegal employment retaliation.


Is it ever okay for my employer to punish a woman for bringing a legal discrimination claim?


It is never permissible for an employer to fire an employee for exercising her legal rights.


Who enforces these retaliation laws?


The Maryland Commission on Human Relations (MCHR) enforces state law retaliation claims. The MCHR is a regulatory body in Maryland that is responsible for managing all employment and housing discrimination claims. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal claims brought under Title VII. The EEOC is a federal body responsible for enforcing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.


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.


What must I prove to win my case?


To win on a case for retaliatory discharge under Maryland law, you must show that:
(1) you engaged in a statutorily protected action (e.g. called attention to discrimination);
(2) your employer took adverse employment action against you (e.g. firing or demotion); and
(3) there was a causal link between the protected activity and adverse action.


Does it matter when I suffered adverse employment action?


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.


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


The employer could argue that the adverse employment action was not in retaliation to the employee's legally protected actions. The employer could put forth legal causes for the firing, such as poor work or absences. You must be able to show the causal connection between the protected activity and the adverse action.


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


Maryland courts have found that "actions that do not cause a change in salary, benefits or responsibility generally are not considered adverse employment actions."


Assuming that the action involves salary, benefits or responsibility, the court could still find for the employer if they can show that there was no connection between your protected action (e.g. speaking out against your employer's discriminatory policies or filing suit) and the adverse employment action.


How do I go about filing a claim for retaliatory 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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