Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia are all “employment at will” states. That means that if you don’t have a contract, you can be fired for any reason or no reason–as long as it’s not an illegal reason. Illegal reasons vary somewhat by state and county, but no matter where you are, federal law provides certain protections. Depending on the size of your employer, the type of work they perform, and whether they are a private company, you may be protected against discrimination based on race, gender, religion, ethnicity, national origin, disability, age, or military status. Maryland goes further and prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. The District of Columbia prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender expression, political affiliation, and even personal appearance. “Discrimination” generally includes termination, failure to promote, differential treatment in pay, failure to hire, and working conditions, but it may be broader in your case.
If you’re not the victim of discrimination but complain about discrimination against someone else, you’re protected, too. If you are fired, demoted, or subjected to other negative treatment at work because you complained about discrimination, you may be able to sue under these laws’ retaliation provisions. The same applies to union activity, complaints about unpaid wages, and complaints about fraudulent billing in government contracting.
Discrimination claims often have short deadlines, so if you think you may have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation, please contact us.