The Maryland General Assembly, under sponsorship of Delegate Aruna Miller, issued Gilbert Employment Law partners Gary Gilbert and Stephanie Herrera, and of-counsel, Joe Gebhardt, citations in recognition for their advocacy and achievements on employment related issues. Specifically, the Maryland General Assembly recognized Mr. Gilbert, Ms. Herrera, and Mr. Gebhardt for “skillfully bringing [their] talents to serve a diverse range of clients with wide-ranging needs in employment and labor law.” The Maryland General Assembly also recognized Ms. Herrera for “being named a Maryland 2018 Rising Star”. The awards were presented by Delegate Miller on January 15, 2018. Delegate Miller is a member of the House Appropriations Committee where she is Chair of the Oversight Subcommittee on Personnel, a leading committee on personnel and employment issues.
On January 5, 2018, the District of Columbia Department of Employment Services (DOES) issued a decision in favor of Maria Fuentes, represented by Gilbert Employment Law, P.C. and found that Vador Ventures, Inc. d/b/a Total Quality Building Services (“Total Quality”), violated the Protecting Pregnant Workers Fairness Act of 2014 (“PPFWA”) when it prohibited Ms. Fuentes from returning to the workplace after she requested an accommodation related to her pregnancy and pregnancy related conditions. DOES awarded Ms. Fuentes full backpay and reasonable attorneys’ fees and ordered Total Quality to pay a $3,000 penalty to the Pregnant Workers Protection Fund.
In March 2017, Ms. Fuentes, a cleaner, began experiencing severe back pain as a result of her pregnancy. Her doctor recommended that, due to her pregnancy and pregnancy related conditions, Ms. Fuentes be accommodated in the workplace, including avoiding excessive bending or squatting. On March 27, 2017, Ms. Fuentes provided a doctor’s note setting forth her restrictions to Total Quality. DOES found that, pursuant to her doctor’s recommendation, Ms. Fuentes could perform the majority of her duties and the only duty that Ms. Fuentes could not perform was cleaning the bathrooms. The same day, Total Quality informed Ms. Fuentes that she could no longer continue her employment unless her doctor authorized her to work without restriction. DOES found that Total Quality “show[ed] an unwillingness to reasonably accommodate [Ms. Fuentes]” when it refused to allow Ms. Fuentes to work “unless she provided a medical note releasing her to full-duty.” DOES further found that Total Quality could have provided an accommodation such as a “switch in bathroom duties between employees,” which would not have posed an undue hardship to Total Quality.
The PPFWA was designed to address the concern that all-too-often vulnerable, pregnant employees, like Ms. Fuentes, were placed on leave or terminated from employment when they could continue performing their duties with a reasonable accommodation. The PPFWA was intended to expand protections to pregnant workers to ensure they are able to maintain their jobs during a time they are most in need of stable employment. The decision by DOES will further the purpose of PPFWA and will encourage employers to comply with the law and provide appropriate accommodations to pregnant employees.
It is common knowledge that discrimination is illegal in the workplace. However, many workers remain confused in regard to what this means, as well as whether they have in fact been a victim to discrimination.
Discrimination can take many forms, and this is why it can be difficult to define. However, the word itself is derived from the term “to distinguish.” Therefore, the general meaning of discrimination is to treat a person differently from others based on an unfair reason. It is always better when all workers are treated equally and fairly by their employers.
What types of characteristics are protected from discrimination?
In order to make the law simpler and more enforceable, certain characteristics have been established as protected from discrimination. There must be a underlying reason for why you believe that you were discriminated against. One of these reasons must be nationality, gender, marital status, pregnancy, age, disability, sexual orientation, race, religion, ethnicity or color. Therefore, if you were discriminated against because you practice a certain faith, are pregnant or are African American, for example, this always counts as unlawful discrimination.
In what places am I protected from discrimination according to federal law?
The main emphasis on anti-discrimination is in the workplace. This is because the ability to have a job and earn a living without facing discrimination is extremely important. Other places where such behavior is enforced is in education, health care, government services, transportation and housing, to name a few.
If you believe that you have become victim to discrimination, it is important to take action immediately.
There are federal laws that protect employees of federal agencies and those applying to work at them from discrimination. That means federal employers can’t discriminate based on race, religion, national origin, age, disability, sex, and other protected bases. It is also against the law to retaliate against you if you file a discrimination complaint or refuse to go along with discrimination against a fellow employee.
If you work at a federal job or applied for one, it is your right to file a complaint if you believe you are a victim of discrimination. The first person you will need speak with is an EEO counselor for the federal agency in question. You must do so within 45 days from the date of discrimination. Typically, the counselor will offer you the chance to take part in EEO counseling or a program designed to resolve the dispute, such as mediation or another form of alternative dispute resolution.
If you don’t resolve the dispute, you have a limited number of days to file a formal complaint with the EEO office. Once you file the complaint, the agency will determine whether it meets certain specifications. It could be dismissed, for instance, for being filed past the deadline.
If the complaint is accepted, the agency will investigate your complaint. It has 180 days to do so. Once that process is complete, the agency will give you the choice of requesting a hearing before an administrative judge or asking the agency to review the file to see whether discrimination took place. If you disagree with the decision, you have the right to appeal to the EEOC or challenge it in federal court — at which point the process can get even more complex.
The EEOC process can be lengthy and cumbersome. If you think you have a claim of discrimination, you should consider consulting with an attorney familiar with federal employment law.
It can be very frustrating and disheartening to feel as though you are not getting the pay or the work that you believe you are entitled to at your job. However, when you feel that you are being treated unfairly, it is important that you learn about your rights and take action accordingly.
In the state of Maryland, there are many protections in place for those who are subject to poor treatment in regard to overtime. Overtime pay and overtime dissemination is legally regulated.
What is the legally required pay for overtime in Maryland?
When an employee works over 40 hours in a given week, the additional hours worked count as overtime hours. This means that, in most cases, employees must be paid 150 percent of their regular hourly rate.
However, there are exceptions to this. Notably, bowling alley workers and caregivers in nursing homes or caregivers of disabled people are only able to claim overtime pay if they have worked more than 48 hours in a given working week.
In addition, food service employees, movie theater employees, amusement park employees, hotel employees, food manufacturing employees and gas station employees are not protected by the state overtime law. Their employers are still subject to federal laws, however.
What happens if I am not protected by state laws?
If you are not protected by state laws, you are still protected by federal laws, which usually means that you will still be eligible for 150 percent of normal pay after you have worked 40 hours.
It is important to understand your overtime rights as a worker in Maryland. Make sure to conduct thorough research and take action when appropriate.
You’re able to apply for federal disability retirement while still employed and up to one year after you’ve stopped working for the federal government. Here’s some questions and answers about disability retirement basics.
What are the basic qualifications for Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) disability benefits?
- At least 18 months of federal service as a civilian or postal employee
- Inability to perform “useful and efficient service” in your current job because of a physical or mental disability
- Expectation of your disability to last at least 12 months
- Inability of your federal agency to reassign you at your same grade or pay level of your present position
How much can I get in FERS disability benefits?
It all depends. The older you are and the more federal employment service you have, the more you stand to receive. Some of the earning considerations include:
- The average of your highest paying three years of federal service
- If you’re over 62 or eligible for voluntary retirement, you’ll get approximately one percent of your three year average for each year of federal service
- If you also qualify for Social Security Disability (SSDI), the amount you receive from FERS disability will be reduced by the amount of your benefit for the first year, then by 60 percent every year after that.
Does my employer have to do anything so I can qualify?
Yes, they will have to provide proof that they have attempted to accommodate your disability in the workplace
Can I work while receiving disability retirement?
Yes, you can, as long as you work in the private sector and don’t earn more than 80 percent of your federal salary.
After I get approved for FERS disability benefits, do I have to do anything else?
Yes. Upon approval for FERS disability benefits, you’re required to apply for SSDI benefits. Also, the Office of Personnel Management may require treatment and level of disability updates for you to retain your benefit eligibility. Due to the complexities in applying for FERS disability retirement and the need for proper filing for your case to go forward, you may need to consult with legal counsel to make sure you get the compensation that’s due to you.