Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Maryland Court of Appeals Grants Cert. in Two Employment Law Cases

The Maryland Court of Appeals will review two employment law cases in its September 2006 term. Both cases arise in Montgomery County. The issues presented are set forth below.

Sterling v. Atlantic Automotive (Ct. Spec. App. unreported) will address the extent an employer is vicariously liable for the harassment of its employee. Will the Court adopt the United States Supreme Court's Faragher/Ellerth anaylsis? In today's Haas opinion, the Court specifically declined to follow U.S. Supreme Court precedent on a statute of limitations issue.

Friolo v. Frankel will decide the extent to which a plaintiff can recover attorney's fee under the Wage Payment and Collection Law for work performed on a successful appeal overturning a trial judge's fee award. The Court of Special Appeals denied the plaintiff's claims for appellate fees.

Haas: Maryland Court Rules That Statute of Limitations For Discrimination Claim Begins At Termination

I wrote here that the Maryland Court of Appeals granted cert in Suzanne Haas v. Lockheed Martin Corporation. The issue in Haas is when the statute of limitation commences in a discrimination case. Haas contended that the statute began to run on the day that she was actually discharged, October 23, 2001. Her employer contends that the statute began on the day that she was notified of her prospective discharge, October 9, 2001. Haas filed suit October 22, 2003. The statute of limitations for her state law (Article 49B) discrimination claim is two years from the date of the occurence.

Today, the Court of Appeals issued its decision in favor of Haas and found her statute of limitations began on the date she was actually discharged. The Court rejected United States Supreme Court precedent stating that the statute of limitations in discrimination claims begins when a plaintiff has notice of her claims.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

More on Accrued Vacation and the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law

A line of Maryland cases states that under the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law an employer cannot require an employee to forfeit earned wages. Accrued vacation is undoubtedly earned as it is accrued.

Which of the following statements is true:
A. "[I]f an employer informs employees at hiring that unused vacation leave will be lost or forfeited when employment ends, then an employee will probably not be able to claim it."


B. Wages under the Maryland Wage Payment and
Collection Law include: "some accrued or accumulated compensation such as vacation ("annual") leave, sick leave, or other promised benefit."

Statement B is a correct statement of law; Statement A appears to be false. The problem is that both statements, which contradict each other, are taken from the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation's Guide to Wage Payment and Employment Standards.

To further complicate matters, in the 2006 legislative session, several Delegates sponsored House Bill 701 which would have made explicit an employer's obligation to pay accrued vacation. The Bill died in committee. The Fiscal and Policy Note apparently picks up the contradictory language from the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation's website. The note states:

In Maryland, the question as to whether an employer must pay an employee for vacation leave upon termination depends on the employer's policies. In the Wage Payment and Collection Law (WPCL), wage means all compensation due an employee and includes any fringe benefit promised in exchange for service. Accrued vacation leave, which accumulates as an employee provides services, is then sometimes viewed as recoverable under WPCL.

My advice: ignore the DLLR's website and follow the WPCL: accrued vacation counts as earned wages.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Year in Review: 5 Top Maryland Employment Law Issues from 2006

5. Employers can require at-will employees to waive their right to a jury trial through mandatory arbitration provisions in job applications. At the same time many Maryland employment lawyers realize that arbitration is just as expensive, unwieldy and unpredictable as litigation.

4. After the skirmish over Governor Ehrlich's political appointments, the citizens of Maryland elect a new governor. Will the General Assembly investigate soon-to-be Governor O'Malley's appointments?

3. The Maryland Federal District Court strikes down the Wal-Mart bill. The case is now pending at the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

2. The Supreme Court's Burlington Northern decision expands employee rights to challenge workplace retaliation. At the same time, the Fourth Circuit greatly restricts such rights in Jordan v. Alternative Resources Corp. Will the Supreme Court review the Jordan case in 2007?

1. The Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law really means that it says. Employer must pay employees earned wages, whether they be accrued vacation, bonuses, or commissions.