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Your Rights Filing a Discrimination Claim - Maryland

Clark Law Group

1. I live in Maryland. What kinds of discrimination are against state law?

2. How do I file a discrimination claim in my state?

3. What are my time deadlines?

4. How can I or my attorney pursue a claim in court in Maryland?

1. I live in Maryland. What kinds of discrimination are against state law?

Maryland law Md. Code Ann. ยง49B makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of race, sex, familial status, color, national origin, age, religion, marital status, sexual orientation, genetic testing, physical and/or mental incapacity.

You should also check with your city or county to see if you live and/or work in a city or county with a local anti-discrimination ordinance. Some cities and counties in Maryland have agencies that process claims under local ordinances and may be able to assist you. These agencies are often called the "Human Rights Commission," "Human Relations Commission," or the "Civil Rights Commission." While some county information is included below, you may also need to check your local telephone directory or government web site for further information. In addition, if you work for the state government or a local government, special anti-discrimination laws and remedies may apply to you.

In Howard County, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of race, creed, religion, handicap, color, sex, national origin, age, occupation, marital status, political opinion, sexual orientation, personal appearance, familial status or source of income. In Montgomery County, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, sex, age, national origin, marital status, handicap, sexual orientation, and genetic status. In Prince Georges County, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, sex, age, national origin, occupation, marital status, political opinion, personal appearance, physical or mental handicap, or sexual orientation. If you live outside these counties, check with your city or county for further information.

2. How do I file a discrimination claim in my state?

In Maryland, a discrimination claim can be filed either with the state administrative agency, the Maryland Commission on Human Relations (MCHR) or the federal administrative agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The two agencies have what is called a "work-sharing agreement," which means that the agencies cooperate with each other to process claims. Filing a claim with both agencies is unnecessary, as long as you indicate to one of the agencies that you want it to "cross-file" the claim with the other agency.

The Baltimore Community Relations Commission, Howard County Office of Human Rights, Montgomery County Human Relations Commission, and Prince George's County Human Relations Commission all also have work-sharing agreements with the EEOC, which means that you may also file with one of these local agencies to preserve your claim under local, state and federal law.

Some county antidiscrimination statutes (Prince George's, Montgomery and Howard) cover some smaller employers not covered by federal law. Therefore, if your workplace has fewer than 15 employees, you should file with your county agency, as the EEOC enforces federal law, which covers only employers with 15 or more employees. (Maryland law also only covers workplaces of 15 or more employees.) If your workplace has 15 or more employees, you may file with the county agency, state agency, or the EEOC; however, some attorneys recommend that you file with either the county agency (if one exists) or the EEOC (if there is no county agency).

To file a claim with the MCHR, contact the closest office below. More information about filing a claim with MCHR can be found at http://www.mchr.state.md.us/.


Maryland Commission on Human Rights
William Donald Schaefer Towers
6 Saint Paul Street
Suite 900
Baltimore, MD 21202
Phone: (410) 767-8600
Toll Free: (800) 637-6247
TTY: (410) 333-1737
Fax: (410) 333-1841
Howard County Office of Human Rights
6751 Columbia Gateway Drive
2nd Floor
Columbia, MD 21046
Phone: (410) 313-6430
Fax: (410) 313-6468
Montgomery County Human Relations Commission
110 North Washington Street
Suite 200
Baltimore, MD 21202
Phone: (240) 777-8450
Fax: (240) 777-8460
Prince George's County Human Relations Commission (HRC)
1400 McCormick Drive
Suite 245
Largo, MD 20774
Phone: (301) 883-6150
Fax: (301) 883-6262

There are also MCHR offices in Hagerstown (Western Maryland), Cambridge, Salisbury (Eastern Shore), and Leonardtown (Southern Maryland).

To file a claim with the EEOC, contact your local EEOC office below. More information about filing a claim with the EEOC can be found at http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/howtofil.html.

Baltimore District Office
City Crescent Building
10 South Howard Street
3rd Floor
Baltimore, MD 21201
Phone: (410) 962-3932
TTY: (410) 962-6065

3. What are my time deadlines?

Do not delay in contacting the MCHR, EEOC or your county agency to file a claim. There are strict time limits in which charges of employment discrimination must be filed. In order for these to act on your behalf, you must file with the MCHR (or cross-file with the EEOC) within six months or the EEOC (or cross-file with the state agency) within 300 days of the date you believe you were discriminated against. Some of the county filing deadlines are as follows:

Howard - One year

Montgomery - One year

Prince George's - 180 days

However, as you might have other legal claims with shorter deadlines, do not wait to file your claim until your time limit is close to expiring. You may wish to consult with an attorney prior to filing your claim, if possible, but if you are unable to find an attorney who will assist you, it is not necessary to have an attorney to file your discrimination claim with the county, state or federal administrative agencies.

4. How can I or my attorney pursue a claim in court in Maryland?

If your case is successfully resolved by an administrative agency, it may not be necessary to hire an attorney or file a lawsuit. If your case is not resolved by the county agency, MCHR or EEOC, however, you may need to pursue your claim in court. A federal employment discrimination case cannot be filed in court without first going to the EEOC, as discussed above, and having the EEOC dismiss your claim. This process is called "exhaustion" of your administrative remedy. Many counties also require exhaustion through the county agency.

There is no "private right of action" under Maryland state law for discrimination claims, which means that individuals cannot file a lawsuit in court under Maryland law. Unless you work in one of the counties that give you the right to file a case in court, or unless you are a state or local government employee who has a special remedy, the only remedy for Maryland's anti-discrimination law is the administrative process.

Because Maryland law does not permit a court action to be filed under state law, and because the federal courts in Maryland are generally not considered to be employee-friendly, many Maryland attorneys choose to file employment discrimination cases in state court using county law if you work in Prince George's, Montgomery or Howard counties. In Baltimore County, there is a right to sue in court if your employer has fewer than 6 employees, and the law limits the damages you can recover. A case filed in state court using federal law may be subject to "removal," which means that a defendant employer requests to move the case to federal court, because it involves a federal statute, such as Title VII or the ADEA.

The EEOC must first issue the document known as "Dismissal and Notice of Rights" or "Notice of Right to Sue," (Form 161) before you can file a case based upon your federal claim. A lawsuit based on your federal discrimination claim must be filed in federal or state court within 90 days of the date you receive the notice. (Be sure to mark down that date when you receive it.).

In Montgomery, Prince George's, and Howard counties, you may file a case in court based upon your county claim no later than two years after the discriminatory act occurred, but no sooner than 45 days after filing a complaint with the county agency. Different deadlines may apply in other cities and counties.

These deadlines are called the statute of limitations. If you have received one of these agency dismissal letters, do not delay consulting with an attorney. If your lawsuit is not filed by the deadline, then you may lose your ability to pursue a discrimination case.

This page was updated on January 6, 2009

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