E-Alerts & Press Releases

Take action to protect Maryland workers from illegal retaliation!

February 22, 2019

Maryland’s minimum wage bill (HB 166 & SB 280) would both increase the minimum wage and protect Maryland workers from retaliation when they speak out about illegal pay practices. But corporate interests are mobilizing to strip the retaliation protections out of the bill. We need you to take action to protect workers’ rights.

  1. Enter your home address into mdelect.net to learn your state Delegates and state Senator.
  2. Click on their names to go to their official pages and get their phone numbers and email addresses.
  3. Call them and tell their staffers that (i) you’re a constituent, (ii) you’re calling about the minimum wage bill, (iii) you’re concerned that parts of the bill that protect workers from retaliation might be taken out and you want those parts to stay in the bill, and (iv) you’d like to know the Delegate’s or Senator’s position on the issue.
  4. Email them (legislators really do read their emails!) and write something similar to the script above.  

If you want to learn more before you call or email, below is written testimony on the issue that the Public Justice Center submitted to the House Economic Matters Committee and Senate Finance Committee. In short, the PJC’s clients regularly face—or are deterred by the threat of—illegal retaliation when they speak out. 

The minimum wage bill’s anti-retaliation provisions address a devastating problem: workers cheated out of their wages don’t complain because they fear having hours cut, being fired, or being blacklisted.

  • Maryland lags behind other states in protecting its workers from retaliation. Unlike Maryland, at least 17 states and the District of Columbia currently give workers the right to seek compensation if, after they complain, their employer retaliates against them. These states are Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, and Vermont.  
  • Maryland’s misdemeanor provision is unenforced and does not remedy the economic harm caused by retaliation. Current law merely makes retaliation a misdemeanor. The PJC is unaware of even a single prosecution under this provision. And even if prosecution were common, it would do nothing to help workers who lose wages due to retaliation.
  • The lack of retaliation protections takes the biggest toll on the most vulnerable. Immigrant workers and workers with a past criminal conviction often cannot easily find a new job. As a result, they do not speak out, violations go unremedied, and low-wage workers already struggling to make ends meet face even greater challenges.

Low-wage workers’ fear of retaliation is grounded in the reality of widespread retaliation.

  • Retaliation is common. A landmark national study found that 43 percent of workers who complained to their employer about their wages or working conditions experienced retaliation.
  • Retaliation tactics vary. They range from reducing work hours, to outright termination, to calling or threatening to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Employers may even report workers to the police on trumped-up charges of theft or file frivolous lawsuits.

Retaliation protections level the playing field for law-abiding businesses.

  • Retaliation hurts above-board businesses. The current lack of effective protection from retaliation means that low-road employers often steal low-wage employee wages with impunity. And when they do, they unfairly undercut law-abiding employers and create a race to the bottom.

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