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Failure to Renew Employment Contracts Can Be Wrongful Termination

Failure to Renew Employment Contracts Can Be Wrongful Termination

Recently, in Miller-Phoenix v. Baltimore City Board Of School Commissioners, (Md. Ct. Spec. App. May 29, 2020), the Court of Special Appeals held that failing to renew an employment contract may create a wrongful termination claim under Maryland law.

In the case, Mr. Miller-Phoenix (the employee) was a public-school teacher for Baltimore City (the employer). In October 2016, the employee signed a temporary employment contract with the employer and, the next day, filed a worker’s compensation claim for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In April 2017, the employer notified the employee that his employment contract was not being renewed and he would be terminated in June 2017.

The employee filed a lawsuit against the employer for numerous alleged violations, including wrongful termination. Specifically, the employee alleged that he was terminated in retaliation for filing his workers’ compensation claim.

At the initial level, the lower court ruled in favor of the employer on all the employee’s claims. With respect to the wrongful termination claim, the lower court ruled that non-renewal of a contract could not create a wrongful termination claim.

The employee appealed to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. The appeals court ruled in favor of the employee finding that failing to renew an employment contract in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim would violate Maryland public policy.

This is an important case for contractual employees in Maryland because it reminds employers that they can potentially be held liable for failing to renew employment contracts for reasons that violate Maryland’s public policy, including because of race, sex, disability or in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim.

If you think you have been wrongfully terminated, the attorneys at Lebau & Neuworth may be able to help. We are highly experienced with handling all types of employment-related cases. For more information, contact us at 888-456-2529 or lebauneuworth.com/contact-us.

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