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PJC Argues Discrimination Claim Starts Ticking at Actual Discharge

On June 30, 2006, the Public Justice Center and the Maryland Employment Lawyers Association filed a "friend of the court" brief in Maryland's Court of Appeals, arguing a technical issue of law that could have broad impact on the ability of low-income workers to file discrimination claims.
 
In Suzanne Haas v. Lockheed Martin, an employee filed an employment discrimination case in court within two years after she was actually discharged.  But the trial court held that the clock started ticking when she was "notified" she would be dismissed, and she was too late under that rule.  PJC and MELA argued in their amicus brief that interpreting the time limit to be from the earlier point of "notice" rather than the latter date of actual discharge undermined an employee's ability to file a discrimination claim, and would particularly affect low income workers.
 
The amicus brief raised two points.  First, a "notice" rule contravenes a core purpose of Maryland Anti-Discrimination Laws – to provide a remedy for victims of employment discrimination – by unduly limiting the ability of victims of to bring employment discrimination claims because it  (1) unnecessarily shortens the timeframe during which employees may file a cause of action; (2) relies on the ambiguous date of notice rather than the bright line date of the actual discharge, thereby creating uncertainty about when those claims are timely and inviting confusion over whether a claim can be brought at all; and (3) discourages employees from pursuing informal remedies with their employer.   Second, the "notice rule" weakens the overriding social interest in promoting access to justice for low-income workers because it compounds the difficulties of low-income workers to find counsel to represent them.
 
The brief was written by Roscoe Jones, Jr., Murnaghan Appellate Advocacy Fellow, with assistance from Steve Ruckman, PJC summer law intern, and Deb Thompson Eisbenberg, Esq. for MELA (formerly a PJC attorney, now at Brown, Goldstein & Levy).
 
Click here to read the brief.

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