Maryland Whistleblower Protection Laws
Maryland is generally an at-will employment state, but there are some significant pockets of protection for whistleblowers provided by federal and state laws, including protections for State employees and protections for private sector workers disclosing fraud. To schedule a consultation, click here or call us at (202) 769-1681.
Maryland False Claims Act
Under the Maryland False Claims Act, MD Code, Title 8, a qui tam relator can bring an action on behalf of Maryland for a violation of the Act, which prohibits “a request or demand, under a contract or otherwise, for money or other property, whether or not the governmental entity has title to the money or property, that is:
(i) presented to an officer, employee, or agent of a governmental entity; or
(ii) made to a contractor, a grantee, or another recipient, if the money or other property is to be spent or used on a governmental entity’s behalf or to advance an interest of a governmental entity, and the governmental entity:
1. provides or has provided any portion of the money or other property requested or demanded; or
2. will reimburse the contractor, grantee, or other recipient for any portion of the money or other property that is requested or demanded.”
Under the MD False Claims Act, a person may not:
- “knowingly present or cause to be presented a false or fraudulent claim for payment or approval;
- knowingly make, use, or cause to be made or used a false record or statement material to a false or fraudulent claim;
- conspire to commit a violation under this title;
- have possession, custody, or control of money or other property used or to be used by or on behalf of a governmental entity and knowingly deliver or cause to be delivered to the governmental entity less than all of that money or other property;
- (5) (i) be authorized to make or deliver a receipt or other document certifying receipt of money or other property used or to be used by a governmental entity; and (ii) make or deliver a receipt or document intending to defraud the governmental entity, knowing that the information contained in the receipt or document is not true;
- knowingly buy or receive as a pledge of an obligation or a debt publicly owned property from an officer, employee, or agent of a governmental entity who lawfully may not sell or pledge the property;
- knowingly make, use, or cause to be made or used a false record or statement material to an obligation to pay or transmit money or other property to a governmental entity;
- knowingly conceal, or knowingly and improperly avoid or decrease, an obligation to pay or transmit money or other property to a governmental entity, including misrepresenting the time at which a trade was made to make the transaction appear less favorable; or
- knowingly make any other false or fraudulent claim against a governmental entity.”
If the qui tam action is successful, the relator is eligible for a whistleblower reward ranging from 15% to 25% of the proceeds.
The Maryland False Claims Act also prohibits retaliation for:
- acting lawfully in furtherance of a false claim action, including an investigation for, initiation of, testimony for, or assistance in a qui tam action;
- disclosing or threatening to disclose the person’s false claim;
- providing information or testifying regarding a false claim; or
- objecting or refusing to participate in a practice the employee, contractor, or grantor reasonably believes to be a false claim.
Remedies for retaliation include:
- two times the amount of back pay;
- punitive damages; and
- compensation for other damages, including litigation costs, and attorney’s fees.
Maryland Health Care Worker Whistleblower Protection Act
Maryland’s Health Care Worker Whistleblower Protection Act, Md. Code Ann., Health Occ. §§ 1-501-1-506, protects a licensed or certified health care worker in Maryland, except for a State employee, where
- The employee has a reasonable, good faith belief that the employer has, or still is, engaged in an activity, policy, or practice that is in violation of a law, rule, or regulation;
- The employer’s activity, policy, or practice that is the subject of the employee’s disclosure poses a substantial and specific danger to the public health or safety; and
- Before reporting to the board:
- The employee has reported the activity, policy, or practice to a supervisor or administrator of the employer in writing and afforded the employer a reasonable opportunity to correct the activity, policy, or practice; or
- If the employer has a corporate compliance plan specifying who to notify of an alleged violation of a rule, law, or regulation, the employee has followed the plan.
- Reinstatement to the same, or an equivalent position;
- Removal of any adverse personnel record entries;
- Compensation for lost wages, benefits, and other remuneration; and
- Attorney fees and litigation costs.
The statute of limitations is one year after the employee first became aware of the violation.
Maryland Common Law Wrongful Discharge in Violation of Public Policy
Maryland common law provides a limited public policy exception to the at-will employment rule for wrongful termination where the discharge contravenes some clear mandate of public policy. Courts may rely on “prior judicial opinions, legislative enactments, or administrative regulations” as the chief sources of public policy and the “declaration of public policy is normally the function of the legislative branch.” Adler v. Am. Standard Corp., 291 Md. 31, 45, 432 A.2d 464, 472 (1981).
As wrongful discharge in violation of public policy in Maryland is a tort action, a prevailing plaintiff can obtain punitive damages.
There are three key limitations on the wrongful discharge tort:
- The public policy must “be reasonably discernible from prescribed constitutional or statutory mandates.” Wholey v. Sears Roebuck, 370 Md. 38, 50-51, 803 A.2d 482, 491. For example, terminating an employee for testifying at an official proceeding or reporting a suspected crime to the appropriate law enforcement or judicial officer is contrary to the public policy articulated in Maryland’s witness intimidation statute and is therefore actionable.
- Where a statute already provides a remedy, the wrongful discharge tort does to provide a duplicative remedy. A discharge motivated by gender discrimination would not be actionable under the Maryland wrongful discharge tort because Title VII of the Civil Rights Act already provides a remedy for gender discrimination.
- Where a wrongful discharge action is based on whistleblowing, the employee must report the suspected criminal activity to the appropriate law enforcement or judicial official, not merely investigate suspected wrong-doing and discuss that investigation with co-employees or supervisors.
Sarbanes-Oxley Whistleblower Protection for Maryland Corporate Whistleblowers
The whistleblower protection provision of SOX protects:
- employees, officers and agents of publicly traded companies (companies issuing securities registered under section 12 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 or required to file reports under section 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934);
- employees of any subsidiary or affiliate of a publicly traded company whose financial information is included in the consolidated financial statements of such company;
- employees of contractors or subcontractors of public companies, including the attorneys and accountants who prepare public companies’ SEC filings;[i] and
- employees of nationally recognized statistical rating organizations (as defined in section 3(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (15 U.S.C. 78c).
Whistleblowers are protected under SOX for providing information, causing information to be provided, or otherwise assisting in an investigation regarding any conduct disclosing conduct that they reasonably believe violates:
- federal criminal prohibitions against securities fraud, bank fraud mail fraud, or wire fraud;
- any rule or regulation of the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”); or
- any provision of federal law relating to fraud against shareholders
when the information or assistance is provided to or the investigation is conducted by:
- a federal regulatory or law enforcement agency;
- any Member of Congress or any committee of Congress; or
- a person with supervisory authority over the employee (or such other person working for the employer who has the authority to investigate, discover, or terminate misconduct).
Significantly, SOX protects internal disclosures, such as an employee raising a concern to a supervisor about misleading financial data in a SEC filing.
To learn more about corporate whistleblower protections, download our free guide titled Sarbanes-Oxley Whistleblower Protection: Robust Protection for Corporate Whistleblowers.
To learn about federal whistleblower protection laws, visit our webpage about whistleblower protections for private sectors employees.
Whistleblower Protections for Employees of Federal Government Contractors and Grantees in Maryland
Employees of federal government contractors and grantees in Maryland are protected from retaliation under the anti-retaliation provision of the False Claims Act and the NDAA.
The anti-retaliation provision of the False Claims Act protects steps taken in furtherance of a potential or actual qui tam action and efforts to stop 1 or more violations of the FCA. Protected conduct includes raising concerns to a supervisor about fraud on the government or opposing fraudulent billing practices. Recently the Second Circuit held that a refusal to violate the False Claims Act is protected under the FCA’s anti-retaliation provision.
Prevailing in a False Claims Act retaliation claim requires a showing that:
- the employee engaged in protected activity;
- the employer had knowledge that the employee was engaged in protected activity;
- the employer took an action that had a negative effect on the terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, such as termination, demotion, suspension, harassment and any other act that would dissuade a reasonable person from reporting violations of the False Claims Act; and
- the employer retaliated against the employee because of this conduct.
The scope of protected whistleblowing under the NDAA whistleblower protection provision is far broader than the scope of protected conduct under the False Claims Act. Under the NDAA whistleblower protection provisions, protected conduct includes the disclosure of information that the employee reasonably believes is evidence of:
- gross mismanagement of a Federal contract or grant;
- a gross waste of Federal funds;
- an abuse of authority relating to a Federal contract or grant; or
- a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety, or a violation of law, rule, or regulation related to a Federal contract.
To be protected, the disclosure must be made to a Member of Congress or Congressional committee, an IG, the GAO, a federal employee responsible for contract or grant oversight or management at the relevant agency, an authorized official of DOJ or other law enforcement agency, a court or grand jury or a management official or other employee of the contractor or subcontractor who has the responsibility to investigate, discover, or address misconduct.
See our Practical Law Practice Note: “Whistleblower Protections Under the National Defense Authorization Act.”
Click here to learn about the qui tam or whistleblower rewards provision of the False Claims Act.
Maryland Whistleblower Protection Law
The Maryland Whistleblower Protection Law, State Personnel and Pensions Article (“SPP”), § 5-301, et seq. protects “employees and State employees who are applicants for positions in the Executive Branch of State government” from reprisal for disclosures of information evidencing:
- abuses of authority;
- gross mismanagement;
- gross wastes of money;
- substantial and specific dangers to public safety;
- or violations of law.
SPP § 5-305.
The statute of limitations for filing a claim is 6 months after the employee first knew of or reasonably should have known of the retaliation. A court may award costs and reasonable attorney’s fees to a prevailing complainant. The purpose of the Maryland Whistleblower Law is to prevent a State agency “from using a personnel action as a retaliatory measure against an employee or applicant for State employment who has made a disclosure of illegality or impropriety.”
Within 60 days of the filing of a complaint, the Maryland Department of Budget and Management’s, Statewide Equal Employment Opportunity Coordinator shall investigate the complaint and issue a written decision. Within 10 days after receiving a decision, the complainant may appeal the decision to the Office of Administrative Hearings.
Montgomery County Civil Service Whistleblower Protections
Section 35-20 of the Montgomery County Personnel Regulations provides an opportunity for a hearing before the Montgomery County Merit Systems Protection Board for any merit system employee who has been removed, demoted or suspended. And an employee with merit status has the right to appeal a personnel action taken in retaliation for:
- refusing to obey an instruction involving an illegal or improper action; or
- disclosing to a Federal, State, or County official or employee, information concerning illegal or improper action in County government with a reasonable good-faith belief that the information disclosed is accurate.
Maryland SEC Whistleblower Attorneys
The whistleblower lawyers at leading whistleblower law firm Zuckerman Law represent whistleblowers before the SEC disclosing fraud and other violations of federal securities laws, including:
- Accounting fraud;
- Investment and securities fraud;
- Insider trading;
- Foreign bribery and other FCPA violations;
- EB-5 investment fraud;
- Manipulation of a security’s price or volume;
- Fraudulent securities offerings and Ponzi schemes;
- Hedge fund fraud;
- Unregistered securities offerings;
- Investment adviser fraud;
- Broker-dealer anti-money laundering program violations;
- False or misleading statements about a company or investment;
- Inadequate internal controls;
- Deceptive non-GAAP financial measures; and
- Violations of auditor independence rules.
The SEC has jurisdiction over a wide range of industries and entities – both public and private. If you have information that may qualify for a SEC whistleblower reward, contact the experienced SEC whistleblower lawyers at Zuckerman Law for a free, confidential consultation. Click here or call us today at 202-262-8959.
Tips for Maryland Corporate Whistleblowers About Qualifying for a SEC Whistleblower Award
See our column in Forbes: One Billion Reasons Why The SEC Whistleblower-Reward Program Is Effective
Top-Rated Maryland Whistleblower Protection Lawyers
We have extensive experience representing whistleblowers under a wide variety of whistleblower protection laws. See our client testimonials by clicking here.
- U.S. News and Best Lawyers® have named Zuckerman Law a Tier 1 firm in Litigation – Labor and Employment in the Washington DC metropolitan area.
- In 2017, Washingtonian magazine named two of our attorneys top whistleblower lawyers.
- Both Eric Bachman and Jason Zuckerman served on the Department of Labor’s Whistleblower Protection Advisory Committee and served in senior positions at the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, the federal agency charged with protecting whistleblowers in the federal government. At OSC, they oversaw investigations of whistleblower claims and obtained corrective action or relief for whistleblowers.
- Firm Principal Jason Zuckerman was recognized by Washingtonian magazine as a “Top Whistleblower Lawyer” in 2015, 2009, and 2007 selected by his peers to be included in The Best Lawyers in America® in the category of employment law (2011-2017), and selected by his peers to be listed in SuperLawyers (2012 and 2015-2017) in the category of labor and employment law. is rated 10 out of 10 by Avvo, based largely on client reviews, and rated AV Preeminent® by Martindale-Hubbell based on peer reviews.
- Eric Bachman, Chair of the Firm’s Discrimination Practice, has substantial experience litigating precedent-setting individual and class action discrimination cases. His wins include a $100 million settlement in a disparate impact Title VII class action and a $16 million class action settlement against a major grocery chain. Having served as Special Litigation Counsel in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice and as lead or co-counsel in numerous jury trials, Bachman is trial-tested and ready to fight for you to obtain the relief that you deserve.
- The firm has published extensively on whistleblower rights and protections, and speaks nationwide at seminars and continuing legal education conferences. We blog about new developments under whistleblower retaliation and rewards laws at the Whistleblower Protection Blog.
To schedule a consultation, click here or call us at (202) 769-1681.