Understanding Employee Lawsuits (Most Common & How To Avoid)

This concept is the silent killer of corporations. Avoid it like the plague. First off, though, you have to really understand it! Very much in the same way firefighters understand the flames of a burning building. It’s an intimate relationship, of sorts. Just don’t get too far-fetched with it!

The point is this: you don’t want to get knee-deep into a lawsuit, so get in on the know about the kinds of lawsuits out there and how to avoid them with this detailed list:

How Does “Discrimination” Work?

It works like locusts ravaging the fields, swallowing all your resources. There’s a reason why we tackle this first, because quite frankly it’s very easy for someone to file such a lawsuit, so always pay close attention to how your office operates. It may make the difference between a legal claim in your mailbox or a gleaming letter of recommendation.

We have these specific concepts. All lawsuits of discrimination are based on these:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Gender
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Age
  • Nationality
  • Disability

The problem with these types of lawsuits is that it often can occur after a promotion has been given or a termination has been ordered. People will think whatever they want to think. Because you passed over Hal due to the fact that is a homosexual for a promotion, it wouldn’t be a far cry for him to think that you’re discriminating against him.

Honestly, you can’t always avoid these lawsuits. But you can avoid any discrimination. Simply don’t do it, not even just a bit. Check your employee handbooks, too, for any discriminatory language.

In the end, there needs to be evidence for such a lawsuit, but if there is none, the court will rule in favor of you no matter how disgruntled the former or current employer may be about a firing, missed promotion or raise.

Harassment Is Hell

This goes without saying, really, but the consequences to some degree are even worse in the workplace. Why? Because harassment can arise in many forms. Common jokes or conversations with even the slightest bit of sexual innuendo — something typical of the bar scene with friends or whatnot — can result in harassment charges.

Moreover, bullies, arguments and any sign of hostility, even when it’s silent, can result in someone filing a harassment lawsuit.

The easy thing about this type of claim, though, is that it doesn’t necessarily involve you, per se, or your company. It, however, can if you don’t take action! That means you need to have a policy in place. You see any sign of harassment, even when it’s minor, do something about it.

This ensures that the victim in question may not in the future file any kind of claim. Even if it’s directed to any one person in the office, ultimately, your entire business might be held responsible as well.

Personal Injuries Can Get Kind of…Personal

These are among the most common, but can also be the easiest to avoid. It’s simple stuff. Don’t be negligent! Accidents do happen, but take appropriate action to ensure that there’s worker’s compensation available for the injured employee.

Sometimes, though, you might face such a lawsuit regardless of worker’s compensation due to work regulations not followed, such as OSHA, safety guidelines and other such concepts. This applies specifically to manufacturing and utility jobs. There’s some risk there. Ensure all your safety equipment is available and operational. Post your hazard warning signs. Spell it out for your employees. Don’t leave any stone unturned.

You Think You Might’ve Fired That Person for the Wrong Reason?

I certainly hope not. If you did, you might face what’s called a wrongful termination lawsuit. Understand, though, that this type of claim isn’t as common due to the fact that oftentimes it’s extremely hard to prove. Basically, you’ve got to prove that you fired the person for a valid reason, and without a doubt the former employee will be a bit peeved that he or she was let go, so there will always be some lashing out involved.

The key to avoiding these, and they’re very much related to discrimination lawsuits, is to keep your records accurate. Document everything. Practically write down every time your employee in question coughs! It’s all about the evidence.

Whatever your contract says about the employee should be your focus. In the end, it’s his or her word against yours, but if you have the evidence to back it up in writing, what can happen? It was perfectly within your right to terminate the employee.

Additionally, terminate with tact. Don’t be mean. I know it sounds stupid, but these are human beings we’re talking about. Even the worst attitude from a CEO can get a lawsuit rolling, and even if it’s completely unfounded, better believe that there’s no worse headache than dealing with a disgruntled former associate.

Above All Else…. Consider All Your Options. Settling May Not Be It!

We don’t like to get all muddled with legal procedure for obvious reasons. It’s understandable. Know this, though: lawsuits can cost you an arm and a leg, especially if you settle. Additionally, by settling in or out of court essentially proves that you’re responsible! Were you? Maybe, maybe not.

This hurts your reputation. This hurts your credibility. Ultimately, even if your business lawyer has fees piling on during the entire due process for the claim, understand that monetary compensation will double and even triple that if you settle or even lose the case.

Fight for your integrity, basically. If you know you’ve operated within legal and reputable parameters, prove it. It’s your business, your company, your livelihood. Protect it.

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Matt Faustman is the CEO at UpCounsel. You can follow his business insights on Twitter at @upcounsel.