Kator, Parks, Weiser & Harris, PLLC

A Washington, D.C. based law firm with a civil practice in employment law

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Maryland Guarantees Workers Paid Sick Leave

Maryland’s Healthy Working Families Act went into effect on February 11, 2018.  The Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, & Regulation has not yet issued final guidance on the Act, so it is important for both employees and employers to understand its effects.

Qualifying workers are now entitled to accrue paid sick leave of at least 1 hour per 30 hours worked.  Employees can use this leave for several purposes, including caring for their own medical needs or those of certain family members, obtaining preventative medical care, as well as maternity and paternity leave.  Importantly, the Act also allows employees to use take leave in situations involving sexual assault, domestic violence, or stalking.

For these benefits to go into effect, both the employer and employee must be covered by the Act.

The Act created two standards based on the size of the employer.  Employers with at least 15 employees must provide paid sick leave to qualifying employees, while those below that threshold are need only provide unpaid sick leave. Different standards may apply to employers in certain industries as well.

The Act does not apply to part-time employees working less than 12 hours per week, or certain employees in the construction, agriculture, or health and human services industries.  In certain circumstances, union employees may also have their rights modified under the Act by their collective bargaining agreement.

The Act also prohibits retaliation against employees who assert their right to use accrued leave.  Employees’ protected activity includes both utilizing leave provided under the Act and raising or participating in claims alleging violations under the Act.

Covered employers are required to provide notices to and develop policies for their employees, describing the extent of their benefits under the Act.  Covered employers are also subject to new recordkeeping and inspection standards.

Employees can file complaints regarding violations of the Act by contacting the Maryland Commissioner of Labor and Industry.  More information on the Act and its effects can be by contacting the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, & Regulation (DLLR) and through guidance on DLLR’s website.

The Healthy Working Families Act contains several particular standards regarding who is covered and the extent of the benefits afforded to a given employee.  The Act is further complicated by similar local and federal laws, including the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Employees and businesses looking to determine their particular rights and obligations under the Act should consult an attorney.  To discuss these possibilities under the Act, you can contact Kator, Parks, Weiser & Harris, PLLC.

KPWH Files Brief on Behalf of Dozens of Civil Rights Groups Opposing Sex Harassment of Students

Kator, Park, Weiser & Harris, P.L.L.C. attorneys Cathy Harris and Daniel Clark joined with the National Women’s Law Center to file an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on behalf of almost 50 civil rights organizations in support of female student victims of cyber harassment. The brief supports the position that the University of Mary Washington did not fulfill its legal duty under Title IX, which requires schools to address sexual harassment against students. Kator, Park, Weiser & Harris, P.L.L.C. is proud to stand with the National Women’s Law Center to advance the cause of equal access to education for all students, and to advance and protect women’s equality and opportunity.

KPHW Named 2018 Best Law Firm

U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers named Kator, Parks, Weiser & Harris as a 2018 leading law firm in the area of Employment Law.  KPWH is proud of its lawyers and the work we have done to receive such an honor.

SSA Issues Final Decision in Class Action

The Social Security Administration issued its Final Decision in the Jefferson v. SSA Class Action in September 2017. Both parties are appealing the matter to the EEOC Office of Federal Operations. For additional details, click here.

Cathy Harris honored as Lawyer of the Year

Cathy Harris was named as a 2018 “Lawyer of the Year” in the practice area of Employment Law-Individuals in Washington, DC by Best Lawyers.

SSA Class Meeting

Thursday, March 30, 2017
6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Woodlawn Senior Center
2120 Gwynn Oak Avenue, Woodlawn, Maryland 21207

 

NBC News reports on SSA Class Actions

NBC News Baltimore affiliate WBAL reported on the class actions that KPWH continues to fight on behalf of African American males at the Headquarters of the Social Security Administration. Click here to view the report.

For more information about the SSA class actions, click here.

Contact Kator, Parks, Weiser & Harris for a free consultation to discuss your own potential legal matter.

Gag Orders Cannot Trump Employees’ Free Speech Rights

Given reports about the current administration’s reported use of gag orders at agencies like EPA and the Department of Health and Human Services, it is more important than ever for federal employees to understand their free speech rights. Federal employees keep their free speech rights when they join the government and after they leave.  These rights are protected under the Constitution, federal whistleblower laws, and other laws.  Attempts to restrict these rights through gag orders can be illegal and unconstitutional.

First and foremost, federal employees retain their free speech rights under the First Amendment.  The Supreme Court recognizes government employees’ right to speak on matters of public concern and, in some circumstances, even express political beliefs.  Although the government can impose some restrictions, employees keep many of their core rights and others are protected by statute.

The Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) and Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) also protect the speech of government employees.  These laws contain broad protections for a wide range of speech, including disclosures of violations of law, rules, or regulations; gross mismanagement; abuse of authority; and many others.  Under the WPEA, there is almost always a method for employees to make disclosures to other employees, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, or even the public and media.  Beyond the WPEA, there are other whistleblower protection laws related to specific topics like workplace safety, discrimination, and corruption.

Despite these protections, the government may place certain restrictions on employees’ speech.  Agencies can limit disclosure of classified material; impose certain non-disclosure agreements; and may restrict some speech made in the course of their duties.  The Supreme Court has also upheld similar restrictions.

Federal employees are protected from retaliation under the First Amendment and the WPEA. Employees may seek First Amendment protection directly in U.S. District Court, but must first go to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel to seek protection under the WPEA. Exercising free speech rights as a government employee can sometimes be difficult.  Employees who are considering blowing the whistle or experiencing free speech retaliation may wish to seek guidance about what method of disclosure they should take and how to protect themselves.  To discuss your possible whistleblower or retaliation case, contact Kator, Parks, Weiser & Harris, PLLC.

CBP Officer Class Action certified

The EEOC certified a class action filed by Kator, Parks, Weiser & Harris, challenging the selection process for CBP Officer positions. The class action alleges that the physical fitness test for CBPO positions discriminates against female candidates.

Learn more about the CBP Officer class action by clicking here.

Whistleblower Protection Beyond OSC

In recent years, federal employees have become more familiar with their rights under the Whistleblower Protection Act and their ability to file complaints with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.   Despite this heightened awareness of federal whistleblower protections, many federal employees are unfamiliar with whistleblower protections under other laws.  These other provisions, like those under the Occupational Safety & Health Act and Consumer Financial Protection Act (Dodd-Frank), provide for additional protections, procedures, and remedies for federal employees that they may not have elsewhere.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has been given the authority to receive complaints under 22 different whistleblower retaliation provisions.  Some of these statutes prohibit retaliation against federal employees who make disclosures under a given act.  They also provide for administrative remedies that may be different than which can be obtained from the Office of Special Counsel.

The additional protections may duplicate administrative procedures and remedies for federal whistleblowers.  Because of this, federal employees often have to choose whether to file a complaint under the Whistleblower Protection Act with the Office of Special Counsel, seek protection under one of the alternatives, or both. In addition, different deadlines apply to the different statutes, and can be quite confusing.  For this reason, we encourage federal employees who may have whistleblower claims to consult with an experienced attorney as soon as possible.  The following websites have additional information about whistleblower protection laws and applicable deadlines:

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
Department of Labor

To discuss your possible whistleblower retaliation case, contact Kator, Parks, Weiser & Harris.

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