How Do I Craft Policies for Recruitment, Promotion and Discipline?

Tips for Maryland employers to avoid discrimination

By Super Lawyers staff | Reviewed by Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on May 4, 2023 Featuring practical insights from contributing attorney Christina Bolmarcich

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Facing a discrimination complaint can cause significant problems for an employer. Your company could face a lengthy legal dispute that ends in a finding of liability. Businesses and nonprofit organizations can avoid discrimination and reduce their risk of liability by putting the proper workplace recruitment, promotion, and disciplinary policies in place.

In this article, you will find four actionable tips for crafting effective employment policies in Maryland.

Know the State and Federal Laws that Apply to Your Company

As a starting point, it is crucial that business owners and human resources (HR) managers know which state and federal labor laws apply; all employers must be in full compliance with applicable laws.

“While state employment laws tend to reflect federal employment laws, there are often differences in the state laws—and even local laws—that may afford employees either more or less protections,” says Christina Bolmarcich, an employment & labor attorney at Rosenberg Martin Greenberg in Baltimore.

“The most common issues I confront are employment decisions that offer protections only provided by federal law, because the employers are unaware that state and local laws require them to provide additional information or different protections.”

Depending on the size of your company, you may be subject to the following: 

As the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) summarizes, federal employment laws prohibit discrimination on the “bases of race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information.” These laws apply to the hiring process, job performance appraisals, promotions, demotions, and employment termination actions. Among other things, employers must provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities, and take steps to ensure safe work environments.

“Leave law is now an important issue that employers need to be aware of and implement into their existing policies and procedures,” adds Bolmarcich. “Some states and local jurisdictions within some states provide for paid parental leave, sick leave [for oneself or caring for a family member], and safe/domestic violence leave. Employers need to make sure that employees are aware of any and all of their paid leave rights at the outset of their employment.”

While institutional input from human resource management professionals is crucial for creating employment policies and procedures, lawyers can assess whether the policies and procedures can be applied lawfully, and whether there is any potential for liability and any risks associated with implementing such policies and procedures.

Christina Bolmarcich

Make the Policies Clear to Managers, Employees, and Applicants

Once the need for an employment policy is identified, the next step is to determine the specific content of the policy. Employers should take proactive measures to clearly communicate their policies to managers, workers, new employees and job applicants.

In too many cases, Maryland businesses and organizations run into problems because everyone is not on the same page. Even the most well-crafted of workplace policies will not be effective if they are not understood. For some Maryland employers, it may be advisable to draft a comprehensive employee handbook with grievance procedures and conditions of employment.

Ensure Fair and Consistently Applied

To avoid a discrimination claim, employers should have an action plan to ensure that their policies are being fairly and consistently applied. This is a major area of concern for many companies. In many cases, liability for discrimination is imposed based on the finding that an employer did not apply its stated policies consistently.

As an example, imagine that you craft a policy that requires a written reprimand for an hourly employee who shows up late without justification. If it turns out that only some workers are receiving the corrective action while others are not subject to formal discipline for the same infraction, that could be used as potential evidence of discriminatory practices.

Get Professional Help from a Maryland Employment Lawyer

Developing and implementing new workplace policies can be a complicated task. Businesses and organizations should always be ready to seek help from a skilled professional. A lawyer will make sure that your company’s policies achieve your goals, comply with the law, and limit the risk of liability.

“While human resources professionals understand the dynamics and culture within their workplaces, lawyers understand that effective policies and procedures have to be consistent in their application regardless of the way businesses operate,” says Bolmarcich.

“Lawyers can provide enforceable measures for performance and guidelines for disciplinary actions. Additionally, while ensuring employees are treated equally, lawyers can create policies and procedures that outline certain criteria for performance and define the circumstances under which employees may be disciplined. While institutional input from human resource management professionals is crucial for creating employment policies and procedures, lawyers can assess whether the policies and procedures can be applied lawfully, and whether there is any potential for liability and any risks associated with implementing such policies and procedures.”

If you have any specific questions or concerns about crafting workplace policies for recruitment, performance evaluations, retention, or discipline, contact an experienced Maryland employment & labor attorney for guidance and support.

If you’re interested in learning more about this area of the law, see our overviews on employment law for employers and discrimination law.  

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