Defending Decency
And Civil Rights In The Workplace

Back pay can quickly add up in a wrongful termination claim

On Behalf of | Jun 1, 2023 | Wrongful Termination

Unless a worker in Maryland is under an employment contract or is part of a union with a collective bargaining agreement, they are likely employed “at will.” Employers in at-will states can let an employee go for almost any reason, even reasons that might seem arbitrary or unfair.

However, the right to fire an employee at will is not unfettered. Employers in Maryland cannot terminate an employee if doing so would violate public policy. If an employer fires an employee in violation of public policy, the employee might have a claim for wrongful termination and could seek damages, including back pay.

What violates public policy?

There are a variety of circumstances in which a termination violates public policy.

Firing an employee in violation of state or federal law violates public policy. State and federal law hold that employees in legally protected categories such as race, sex and religion cannot be fired for discriminatory reasons. A discriminatory firing violates public policy and could form the basis of a wrongful termination lawsuit.

In addition, under Maryland law workers have the right to receive the minimum wage, the right to a safe work environment, the right to pursue workers’ compensation and possibly the right to overtime pay. If an employer fires an employee in retaliation for asserting one of these rights, this violates public policy and could form the basis of a wrongful termination lawsuit.

Wrongful termination and back pay

Of course, in addition to holding a wrongdoer accountable, the point of most lawsuits is to recover financial compensation. One major source of compensation in wrongful termination claims is back pay.

Back pay damages include compensation for wages the worker did not receive starting from the date they were fired until their trial begins. This is different from front pay damages that provide compensation for wages lost from the time the worker’s trial begins moving into the future.

Back pay damages can add up quickly. This is because many steps must be completed from the time a claim is filed until the time of trial. It might take months or even longer for a worker to litigate a wrongful termination claim. This adds up to a lot of wages missed.

Being compensated for back pay is important. There are other types of damages workers might pursue in a wrongful termination claim. The ultimate goals of a wrongful termination lawsuit are obtaining the compensation needed to become whole again and holding a former employer responsible for misconduct.