State and Local Laws Offer Broader Protection
Federal, state and local laws generally define “discrimination” in the same way; however in some cases the federal law does not cover a certain size or type of employer, certain actions, or even certain categories of persons who may be victims of discrimination. As a result, many states, counties and cities, have passed their own anti-discrimination laws which attempt to bridge the gap and expand protection. For example, the District of Columbia and Maryland have passed laws that specifically list “sexual orientation” or “genetic information” as a basis for discrimination.
States and localities generally refer to their laws as Human Rights or Human Relations Acts.
Some of the key highlights and distinctions of the laws from the states, counties and cities that comprise the Washington D.C. Metropolitan area are addressed below.
Maryland Employment Discrimination Law
The Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act: Article 49B of the Code of Maryland (State Law):
- Similar to Federal Laws, but adds pregnancy, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, and genetic information, to the list of protected classes.
- Lower number of employees to trigger coverage than federal laws
- Individual supervisors may be charged for discriminatory acts
- Small employers(under 15) are not covered by this law so look to county laws for coverage
- Limits damage awards i.e. punitive damages and compensatory limited to range of $50,000 to $300,000 depending on the number of employees that the employer has. Court can award attorneys fees, expert costs, witness fees and costs.
Washington D.C. Employment Discrimination Law
District of Columbia Human Rights Act of 1977
The District of Columbia Human Rights Act is extremely broad and one of the most expansive anti-discrimination laws in the United States. It prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, source of income, disability, sexual orientation, marital status, personal appearance, matriculation, family responsibilities, political affiliation, family status, place of residence or business.
A “partially discriminatory” reason is as unlawful as a fully discriminatory one. Employers and individual supervisors can be held liable for discriminatory acts of its employees.
Individual Employee Rights:
- Employers may not use lie detector tests
- Employers are required to have and to post a smoking policy
- Employees cannot be discriminated against because of the exercise of jury duty
- Employers cannot require a prospective employee to provide a record of arrests and convictions at the employee’s expense, and cannot acquire information that is more than ten years old
- Employers cannot require that employees support or contribute to any political party or candidate
- Employers cannot require “English only”
- Dress and appearance requirements must be uniform and have legitimate business purpose
- Employers must provide seating for all employees
- Employees have the right to access their personnel files
- Parents are entitled to 24 hours of leave during any twelve-month period to attend school functions with their children
Virginia Employment Discrimination Law
Code of Virginia, Chapter 39 Section 2.2-3900
The Virginia Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, marital status, or disability. It does not include sexual orientation.
- Applies to employers with 6 or more persons.
- The Virginians with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against qualified persons with physical or mental impairments. Remedies available under this Act are slightly different from the Federal ADA, and the Act is the exclusive state remedy for discrimination based upon disability.
If you need the help of an experienced employment discrimination lawyer, personal injury or insurance attorney in Maryland, Washington DC or Northern Virginia, please contact the Law Offices of Stuart L. Plotnick, LLC in Rockville, Maryland