Lawsuits in the business world are not an uncommon occurrence. Whether the source of the claim is someone within the organization or someone from the outside such as a vendor, an upset client or a third-party company, thousands of cases of varying kinds and types have been filed, fought, won and lost.
No matter how small the matter, workplace lawsuits, especially in the day and age of social media and fast content sharing, can blow out of proportion. Even in cases where the organization won or settled, a public lawsuit can damage the company’s reputation quite severely. In fact, lawsuits have the potential to put a lock on businesses that were otherwise successful.
Fighting lawsuits also take up a lot of time and can result in a significant financial loss for the company. Things can get even more complicated for small businesses or companies facing other legal or operational problems.
Companies with sound legal compliance and strong organizational policies often consider themselves completely safeguarded against workplace lawsuits. They assume that since they are good and just to their employees, they don’t run the risk of breaking a law.
In some cases, this is the case. A disgruntled employee might file a wrongful claim to get back at the company for an unrelated personal matter. However, there are instances where the lack of legal acumen may surprise the employer with valid reasons for the case.
While susceptibility to a potential workplace lawsuit is never completely avoided, employers can reduce it by keeping up with state and federal employment and workplace laws. This is much easier said on paper than actionably done.
Attorneys who specialize in employment law, whether you hire one or establish an entire legal team, are imperative. Not only will they keep up to date with changes in the law, but they will also be mindful of how those laws apply to your organization specifically.
They will also make you aware of your legal rights and obligations, further reducing the chances of you facing the ramifications of a failed lawsuit.
While you look for the right attorney, here are some common workplace lawsuits of which you should be aware:
Unfortunately, discrimination is still a present factor in many organizations. It is one of the most common types of workplace lawsuits employees file against an employer who they think treated them unfairly.
There are certain classes that protect most employees from discrimination. These classes include age, race, gender identity, skin color, national origin, religion, ethnicity, familial status, disability, citizenship, and veteran status.
In addition to these, there are certain classes protected by state law, which include marital status and sexual orientation. This means that rules on these classes vary from one state to another.
There are several acts in federal anti-discrimination laws that are enforced for this very reason. For example, Title 1 of the Americans with Disabilities Act or the ADA protects employees against discrimination on the basis of disability, whereas the Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits employers from discriminating against a woman on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions.
An employee under the impression of being discriminated against may file a lawsuit against the employer. If they lack evidence such as a written statement by the employer, the employee must present evidence of belonging to a protected class, being qualified and records of satisfactory performance to prove they were discriminated against.
In order to prevent facing a discrimination lawsuit, being aware of the law is the first step. Employers also need to enforce and record that all necessary business policies and protocols against discrimination in the workplace are practiced and are available to all employees.
Accurate documentation of employee performance will also be pivotal in your defense. If you have a record of the plaintiff’s declining performance, tardiness, and poor reviews, you can justify your decision to terminate them.
Wrongful termination covers all claims where the plaintiff believes they were fired in violation of the law. Discrimination is often the reason for many employees who file wrongful termination lawsuits. However, there are other direct and indirect causes of actions that may result in wrongful termination.
For instance, an employee might file a claim against an employee who fired them because they broke a contract. If there was a written agreement that guaranteed employment for a certain period of time, firing the employee will be in its violation and cause a lawsuit.
Again, accurate records of employee contracts and performance along with communication paper trails can help employers defend their decision.
Harassment in workplace lawsuits often comes up in the context of federally protected classes being subjected to bullying and discrimination. However, harassment cases don’t necessitate the plaintiff to be a member of those classes.
From sexual harassment and assault to hostile statements during arguments can result in a lawsuit. Avoiding such lawsuits includes creating and enforcing strict anti-harassment policies and communicating those policies and the repercussions of violation across the organization.
Retaliation refers to the employer’s actions against an employee who filed a workplace lawsuit against their employer. Firing, demoting, or harassing the plaintiff to punish them for practicing their legal right is not allowed.
In situations where you might be the employer facing a potential claim, it’s best to follow legal procedure and prevent confrontation with the plaintiff.
Exposure to hazardous working conditions and an unsafe work environment can lead to a workplace lawsuit if an employee(s) suffers an injury. If the employer is found to violate OSHA guidelines or other workplace safety laws, a lawsuit can become a living nightmare for the organization. The employer is held liable for the injury, often spending millions in settlements.
While worker’s compensation insurance programs provide coverage against many claims, there might be instances where the case becomes complicated.
Oftentimes, workplace lawsuits for personal injury are preventable. Carrying insurance, monitoring safety hazards, conducting frequent safety checks, and training employees on safety are necessary.
At Welch Law Firm, organizations find decades of experience and expertise in employment law that enables organizations to be proactive about protecting themselves against workplace lawsuits.
Whether you’re currently facing a claim or want legal support for other employment matters, contact us today.