Back Pay A Remedy For Violation Of Maryland’s Bill Of Rights

Calvin Elliott was a deputy sheriff with the Howard County, Maryland Sheriff's Department. When the Department terminated him, Elliott filed a lawsuit contending that he had been discharged without the hearing required by Maryland's statutory Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights. A trial court agreed with Elliott, and ordered Elliott reinstated with back pay.

The County challenged the reinstatement order in the Maryland Court of Appeals. The County's main argument was that courts do not have the authority to issue back pay awards for violations of the Bill of Rights. The County contended that the courts were limited to ordering the employer to comply with the Bill of Rights, and were without the power to issue a monetary remedy.

The Court found that a monetary remedy was implicit in the Bill of Rights. As the Court put it, when a Court finds that an officer's right under the Bill of Rights has been denied, “the law authorizes the Court to grant or vindicate that right. Elliott had the right to a hearing before a hearing board prior to the Sheriff's office taking any disciplinary action resulting from investigation or interrogation. Elliott was denied this right when the Sheriff's Office terminated his employment without affording him a pre-termination hearing before a hearing board. To afford Elliot the right that he was denied, the trial court reinstated him into his former position as a deputy sheriff, including the payment of all back pay and benefits. To do anything less, in our view, would not have granted or vindicated the right that Elliot was denied.”

Cave v. Elliott, 2010 WL 297814 (Md. App. 2010).

This article appears in the March 2010 issue