From Kalijarvi, Chuzi, Newman & Fitch, P.C., Michael Robinson reports on a new Maryland statute that extends protections against harassment to independent contractors. Independent contractors are not protected by Title VII of the Civil rights Act of 1964 and their only recourse is state law. Michael reports that Maryland not protects independent contractors against harassment. Michael writes:
It will come as no surprise that while employment discrimination is illegal, the laws in most states and the federal government protect only “employees;” independent contractors are out of luck. Not only that, but in order to file a discrimination claim, the employee has to show that the employer has a minimum number of employees, typically 15.
Anew Maryland law,however,allows both independent contractors and employees of businesses with as few as a single employee to bring claims for harassment based on race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. The new law (HB 679) was signed by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan on April 30, 2019 and will take effect on October 1, 2019.
The new law will expand the definition of “employee” for purposes of Maryland employment discrimination and harassment claims to include “an individual working as an independent contractor for an employer.” See MD Code Ann. § 20-601(c)(1). This is significant because it will allow independent contractors in Maryland to bring harassment and discrimination claims that they could not pursue under federal law, as Title VII protects only employees. See 42 USC § 2000e(f). (However, contractors working in federal offices may be protected by the “joint employer” doctrine, under which the employment agency paying their salary and the federal agency in which they work can both be considered their “employer” for discrimination purposes. See Serita B. v. Department of the Army,EEOC Appeal No. 0120150846 (November 10, 2016)).