Many companies have the best intentions, but they still may face discrimination and other employee-generated lawsuits. This is not because their policies are unfair or offer fair pay and positive company culture. Instead, it’s because people, in general, aren’t perfect and will take advantage of any opportunity to work for themselves instead of someone else.
You must know about the most common workplace lawsuits so that your company can defend itself against these legal issues. These are not trivial matters. Sometimes they get escalated to a criminal case. When that happens, you’ll need an expert criminal defense attorney to represent you in court.
The following list includes six common workplace lawsuits:
1. Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment in the workplace has become a hot-button issue, especially after the #MeToo movement. Almost every employer has sexual harassment policies designed to stop these behaviors in their tracks. However, it doesn’t matter how much training you provide or what your policy says if people violate them and create a sexually hostile work environment. You must pay attention to any accusations of sexual harassment and immediately investigate such claims.
Discrimination in the workplace isn’t just about hiring and promoting women, minorities, people with disabilities, and other groups protected under federal law. You must also be aware of discrimination in terms of age, religion, and lifestyle, among others.
If you think this no longer happens, you’re wrong. Sometimes, the people who discriminate in such a manner don’t even realize they are doing so. However, it doesn’t matter if the discrimination is intentional or not. Your company can still be held liable for allowing such behavior to continue and may have to settle with the offended party.
Remember that even if you have an equal-opportunity employment policy and offer fair pay and positive company culture, you can still be at risk for discrimination lawsuits.
How do you avoid this? The best way to do so is to maintain a zero-tolerance policy and investigate any complaints. If you discover that your company has fallen into this trap, you must immediately remedy the situation.
3. Whistle Blowing
Whistleblowers usually report illegal activities within the company to people who can do something about them. For example, they could contact the Better Business Bureau or U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). While many praise whistleblowers for their acts, some insiders attempt to sue the employer when they’re fired.
For example, in 2014, a former manager sued Qualcomm, who accused them of firing her after she reported illegal activities.
To prevent this from happening to your company, you must do the following:
- Always notify employees that retaliation against whistleblowers is prohibited and will result in discipline, up to and including termination.
- Ensure managers know what to do to protect the company and what not to do when it comes to whistleblowers.
Thus, you must be aware of internal policies that address whistleblowing and ensure people understand there will be severe consequences if they violate your rules.
Retaliation occurs when an employee complains about a problem—for example, sexual harassment in the workplace. Then the employer fires them in response. If you witness an incident of retaliation against a current or former worker, be sure to report it immediately to HR and legal department professionals. This is not only because it’s illegal but also because it can quickly become a toxic situation in the workplace.
How do you avoid this? Forward all employee complaints directly to the HR department promptly. Then, investigate each claim in detail and take appropriate action if you find any truth to it.
Be sure to take reports about retaliation seriously and monitor this type of behavior closely to make certain retaliation doesn’t occur.
5. Wage and Hour Violations
Wage and hour violations often happen when employers want to cut costs. However, sometimes the company makes honest mistakes to get their employees paid quickly and correctly.
Regardless of why this situation occurs, you must address any claims of wage and hour violations immediately. These incidents are more than just legal issues—they’re moral ones too.
How do you avoid this? There are three easy things you can do to make sure your company doesn’t find itself in this situation:
- Ensure that all employees clearly understand what you expect of them and when they should arrive at work, leave for lunch, etc.
- Provide supervisors with accurate wage and hour records they can use to verify the information and ensure accuracy.
- Provide employees with accurate wage and hour records they can use to verify the information and ensure accuracy.
6. Employee-Generated Litigation
Employee-generated litigation is ordinary because employees are always interested in making their work-life better. They can file claims—for example, breach of contract or fraud—that may initially seem minor to you. However, these types of suits can quickly become large and expensive cases.
The best way to defend your company against the most common workplace lawsuits is to create an employment contract, fairly pay your workers, and offer a positive work environment that benefits everyone.