Maryland Health Care Worker Whistleblower Protection Act
Maryland's Health Care Worker Whistleblower Protection Act protects medical employees in the state from being fired in retaliation for objecting to being required to work in conditions rendered unsafe by the novel coronavirus and its associated disease (Covid-19 or SARS-CoV-2).
Health Care Workers Cannot be Forced to Work in Unsafe ConditionsThe law provides protection from adverse actions such as firing, for (1) those who in "good faith" disclose or threaten to disclose to a supervisor or board, an activity, policy, or practice violating "a law, rule, or regulation," (2) when the employer's activity, policy or practice poses a substantial and specific danger to the public health or safety, and 3) the employee has reported the activity, policy or practice to the employer such that the employer had an opportunity to correct its conduct.
The law protects any health care worker whose occupation requires state licensure, such as a doctor, nurse, physical therapist, etc, who provides information to a public body or refuses to participate in "any activity, policy, or practice in violation of a law, rule, or regulation."
Considering that the Maryland Criminal Code forbids an individual from reckless endangerment, which it defines as creating a "substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another," health workers who fear spreading Covid-19 through non-critical patient contact should contact qualified employment counsel if they are being pressured to work in conditions rendered unsafe by the coronavirus, or if they have been fired for making verbal or written complaints internally or on the outside.
Employers can be expected to argue during the pandemic for permission to fire employees who provide emergency-type services but who insist on adequate personal protective equipment, considering the shortages. It is not clear how such arguments will be treated in the courts. Of course, no such argument is available regarding health workers who are providing non-critical care unaffected by the crisis.
There is no employer size minimum for the law's coverage, full damages and attorneys' fees are available, and the statute of limitations for bringing a claim is one year.
ConclusionThis law provides health care employees, particularly through providing non-essential services, a significant opportunity to protect themselves and others from spreading Covid.