All managers, business owners and human resource professionals worry about civil litigation suits from past or current employees. Civil litigation suits are costly and cause a great deal of stress within the company. There is also the risk that one legal suit will spur other employees to bring cases against the company whether they are justified or not. Even frivolous suits cost the company money in terms of legal fees and time and energy. The better your company understands the most common types of employee lawsuits, the better you’ll be able to avoid these suits and prevent them from occurring.
Some civil litigation cases occur due to misconduct on the part of management. These are the easiest types of court cases to avoid. Common examples include sexual harassment and unpaid overtime. Some employees file suit due reasons such as discrimination based on age, race religion, nationality, sexual orientation and disabilities. If an employee’s career stalls based on these issues or he or she is terminated for these reasons, a lawsuit is likely.
To avoid civil litigation, it’s critical that your company have expertise on the laws that protect employees. There are a wide variety of protections including the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and other important federal labor laws. You should also be aware of state laws that affect employer-employee relations.
How can you prevent these types of civil litigation suits? The most important strategy is training. Your human resources or training department should ensure that all new managers, team leaders and supervisors attend training on issues including sexual harassment, appropriate performance review practices, approved company practices and avoiding discrimination. Often, people who are new to management roles are unaware of appropriate practices and aren’t conscious of how their actions may appear to employees. New managers should also receive mentoring and feedback on their actions.
You should also ensure that company standards are in line with practices that prevent employee litigation. These include having employee advocates, an employee-friendly work environment, harassment prevention training for all workers and appropriate training on employee warning, discipline and dismissals.