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What does “employment at-will” mean to a Maryland worker?

It’s always important to know the protections afforded by Maryland law to employees, as well as the limits of those protections.

For instance, because Maryland is an at-will employment state, employees work “at the will” of employers. That means that unless you have a contract stating otherwise, you can be fired for almost any reason. Even if the reason for firing is unfair, or whether no reason is given at all, an employee can be discharged. 

According to the state’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, an employer can require workers to put in overtime, work night shifts and work on holidays. Employers can also add or subtract or alter the job duties of their workers.

Employers are also not required to treat employees equally when it comes to pay rates or benefits.

While that might seem like a bleak portrait of workplace rights, it should be noted that there are limits on all of the things we’ve written about so far. An example: while employers can fire workers for almost any reason, the state notes that employers cannot engage in “illegal discrimination based on such categories as race, color, gender, national origin, religion, age, disability or marital status.”

You also can’t be fired or face retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim; for refusing to do something illegal; for reporting for military duty or jury duty; or for attempting to have your rights to a minimum wage or overtime pay enforced, among other exceptions.

An employment law attorney can help an employee understand how the law applies to their circumstances.  

Source: Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, "Employment Assistance - Wage and Hour Fact Information," accessed Sept. 10, 2014

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