Surveys show that most companies think they follow the law. The reality is that many businesses are unknowingly breaking state and federal laws, which can result in expensive and time-consuming lawsuits and litigation.
Ninja Gig compiles a list of the most common types of employee lawsuits and how you can prevent them.
Discrimination is the most common employee lawsuit. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received 89,385 charges in 2015. During that same year, they secured settlements of more than $356 million for victims that experienced employee discrimination. The EEOC focuses on protected categories, including nationality, race, sex, sexual preference, religion, disability and age. They also tackle cases related to discriminatory discharge, which is when someone’s employment terminates for falling into a protected class or category.
Retaliation and whistleblower claims are a huge expense. Retaliation can occur when someone files a complaint that relates to discrimination, and he/she then receives a layoff notice. Companies cannot fire employees that help participate in discrimination claims. Additionally, companies cannot ask employees to lie about discrimination claims and then fire them if they are not willing to be dishonest.
We have all seen headlines that relate to harassment – Bill Clinton, Clarence Thomas, the Navy Tailhook Scandal and Senator Bob Packwood, to name a few. Harassment lawsuits lead to messy litigation and expensive settlements.
Harassment encompasses a wide variety of offensive behavior, including offensive objects, jokes or pictures, physical assaults, name-calling and threats. If this type of conduct creates a hostile work environment, an employee may have a harassment case.
How can employers avoid lawsuits?
It may be difficult to prevent all lawsuits, as some employees may only be looking to cash in on settlements. However, businesses can help to avoid lawsuits by practicing state and federal employment laws.
Federal employment laws include the following:
- Equal Pay Act – It is against the law to discriminate between women and men that perform the same job and same duties.
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – You may not discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. This section also extends to include the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Employers may not discriminate based on pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions.
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act – You may not discriminate against employees’ age 40 and older. Please note that some states expand this and decrease the age to 18.
- Family and Medical Leave Act – You cannot discriminate against parents and pregnant women. This also includes prohibiting discrimination against employees with serious health conditions.
- Americans with Disabilities Act – You may not discriminate against qualified employees due to a disability.
- Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act – Employers may not discriminate against employees based on their genetic information. This includes prohibiting health insurance companies from discriminating against genetic information obtained through tests.
The best way to avoid lawsuits is to educate employees to create a healthy, positive work environment. Businesses need to practice harassment prevention by establishing complaint and grievance procedures. Always take action when employees complain about harassment. Most importantly, companies always need to stay apprised of the latest employment law changes.
Ninja Gig allows companies to accept employment applications online. Employers can easily include a non-discrimination notice during this application process, which can include a nondiscrimination statement.