Employment law often does not get the respect or attention that it deserves from employers, employees, and company executives. Many people make the mistake of learning state law and overlooking federal law, or vice versa. Unfortunately, this inadvertent oversight and lack of complete comprehension of the law can and does frequently lead to employment law violations and lawsuits.
Here’s three of the most common employment lawsuits, in no particular order, and how to avoid them:
- What happens: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) keeps track of discrimination lawsuits and records tens of thousands of them every year. Employers and company heads that are not familiar with all of the federally protected classes – sex, nationality, and age, just to name three of them – say or do the wrong thing and get slapped with a lawsuit.
- How to avoid the lawsuit: If you are in a management or executive position at a company or business, review the protected classes of your state and those imposed by the federal government. The governing bills are not static, as classes can be added through legislation, so take a minute at the start of each year to re-review the laws.
- What happens: Retaliation occurs when an employer penalizes a worker for committing legal and protected actions that could hurt the company, such as filing a discrimination claim. Mix-ups can also make justified penalization seem like unjustified retaliation if the proper procedures are not followed, records are not kept, and carefulness is generally discarded.
- How to avoid the lawsuit: If an employee wants to exercise their legal right to file a complaint or participate in an investigation against your company, do nothing to interfere with that or to punish them for it. Tread lightly when dealing with them, and make certain you have ample records to show why any penalization you need to carry out is legitimate.
- What happens: Harassment usually occurs between two employees and involves someone creating a hostile, abusive, or intimidating work environment. Harassment can stem from one harsh joke, multiple sexual comments, a derogatory image passed around through emails, and so on. If it might offend someone, it could constitute harassment.
- How to avoid the lawsuit: Establish and enforce strict workplace codes of conduct that do not allow anything that could be interpreted as harassment. If someone does step over the line for a “joke,” be ready with well-structured HR methods to respond accordingly. Your employees need you to protect them from harassment, and the liability might be put on your shoulders if the right efforts aren’t made to stop it.
If you would like to learn more about employment lawsuits – either as an employer or employee – Shellist Lazarz Slobin LLP can be your legal guides. We have been helping people throughout Texas and the country since 1994. Submit an online form to schedule a consultation with our Houston employment law attorneys.