$91,000 Awarded to Employment Standards Service Claimant


(BALTIMORE, January 19, 2010) -- The Maryland Employment Standards Services (ESS), part of the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation's Division of Labor and Industry, recently secured one of its largest claims for back wages when an employer agreed to provide a former executive $91,000 in promised severance pay.

"We understand that the recession has tightened the purse strings of business owners, but we cannot tolerate situations in which employees' earned wages are used to protect the bottom line," DLLR Secretary Alexander M. Sanchez said. "This award demonstrates that we will ensure that employees get paid what they are entitled to for working."

The ESS currently is investigating nearly 600 claims of unpaid wages. In the first five months of the current fiscal year, the ESS recovered more than $362,000 in wages, more than it recovered in all of fiscal 2007 and close to the $456,000 it collected in fiscal 2009.

In the severance pay case, ESS Administrator Askia Johnson, along with the investigator, issued a determination in favor of the executive, reasoning that the company's failure to perform its due diligence prior to the executive's termination was not sufficient grounds to extinguish its contractual obligation to pay severance.

The employer challenged this finding but ultimately the claim was paid in full in accordance with the original determination.

"This award shows that employees in both blue- and white-collar professions can and will have their rights protected. As long as the employee spends at least 50 percent of his or her working time for an employer in the state of Maryland, then our talented professionals are ready to fight on their behalf," Labor and Industry Commissioner Ron DeJuliis said.

Commissioner DeJuliis urges both employers and employees to log on to the Employment Standards Services web page for more information about the state's Wage and Hour laws and information about filing a claim.