WE REPRESENT AND ADVISE EMPLOYERS IN WORKPLACE DISPUTES
What are the best practices for Los Angeles employers to avoid workplace disputes?
What are the most common employee/employer lawsuits
How to Avoid Employee Lawsuits and Other Employment Disputes
Not every employee-employer dispute is preventable. However, the vast majority of employee lawsuits can be prevented simply by creating transparent policies and an infrastructure in place to manage employee complaints. The following are best practices for avoiding employee lawsuits and other disputes.
Types of Employee Lawsuits
Employees file lawsuits against their companies for any number of reasons. The following is a non-exhaustive list of the most common employee lawsuits that we see in our Los Angeles practice.
- Discriminatory hiring or promoting practices – It is natural for us as employers to identify with those who share features, culture, religion, or other characteristics. The law recognizes this but further recognizes the need for every American to be able to make a living regardless of their differences. This makes it difficult for employers who may feel “better” about a less-qualified employee simply because they feel like they can get along with them better on some subconscious level. That is why it takes an active effort to ensure access to these positions. If an employee believes that you did not make a hire based on qualifications, they can file a lawsuit that will damage your reputation. Transparency in hiring practices is the best way to avoid such lawsuits.
- Sexual harassment, other types of harassment, and hostile work environment lawsuits – Did you know that sexual harassment is a hostile work environment claim? It is among the most common. An employee receives unwanted attention from another employee. This employee reports the situation to HR who either ignores her request or (in the worst situations) retaliates against her. All employees are entitled to do their job in peace free, from harassment. Racial harassment, jokes about disabled folks, jokes about the LGBT community, and more can become the groundwork of a hostile work environment lawsuit. These situations can be avoided by correcting hostile behavior in the workplace before it becomes a hostile work environment.
- Employee misclassification and wage and hour disputes – Sometimes it feels like employers just want to see what they can get away with. In some cases, this results in bizarre company structures where one employee is required to hire another employee thus creating a chain of independent contractors. Why? So they can deny these workers overtime, benefits, and protection under the law. Further, if the employee injures another employee or a member of the public, the company would not be liable. California has very strict laws when it comes to employee classification. All workers are considered employees by default. An employer must prove an individual worker is an independent contractor because they meet certain standards. A Los Angeles employment lawyer can help prevent these lawsuits before they emerge.
- Wrongful termination – California, in spite of its robust labor laws, is still an “at-will” employment state. That means that either the employer or employee may terminate the agreement at any time without providing a reason. Logistically, this sometimes results in discrimination lawsuits if an employee feels they were terminated because they could not get along with an immediate supervisor. Lawsuits like this also result from retaliation.
- Retaliation lawsuits – Employers may not under any circumstances fire, demote, or otherwise, make any employee’s working conditions unpleasant simply for asserting any right that is given to them under the law. This includes the right to have a workplace free of harassment, any entitlements afforded to an employee, and the right to file complaints about the company or any of its employees.
- Personal injury lawsuits – Employers are immune from lawsuits if they have a valid workers’ compensation policy that accepts the employee’s claim. If the workers’ comp policy denies the employee’s claim, the employer has failed to pay the policy, or the employer has no policy as required by law, then the employee may be able to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against their employer.
How Can My Company Avoid These Lawsuits?
Certain types of lawsuits will be unavoidable. For instance, let’s say you hire an employee, and this employee forcibly touches another employee in a sexual area without their consent. Even if you respond to the situation by firing the at-fault employee, the victim may file a lawsuit against your company. Unless you could have predicted that the at-fault employee was unstable, there was never a way to avoid this lawsuit.
But most lawsuits do not happen like this. In fact, there is usually plenty of cause for concern before the situation gets out of control. The victim probably reported that the other employee made her feel uncomfortable, but the employer did not respond by either firing the employee or separating the two employees. In fact, most situations arise out of a refusal to enforce California law.
Specifically, a company can:
- Inform employees of company policy – If your company has a handbook, it is a good chance to assert your commitment to a workplace free of harassment and discrimination in league with California’s law. Every employee is thus on notice that they may be fired for harassment or discrimination. Companies that fire abusive employees tend not to face lawsuits.
- Ensure a means of reporting harassment – Employees should be made aware of how they can file a complaint against a supervisor or fellow employee.
- Hire an employment attorney to ensure they are in compliance with California law – California has very strict laws when it comes to workplace discrimination, wage and hour requirements, employee classification, and more. An employment attorney can help you draft an effective employee handbook, draft useful policies, and avoid these types of lawsuits before they begin.
Talk to a Los Angeles Employment Litigation Attorney Today
The Wright Law Firm Employment Lawyers helps companies both large and small draft effective policies, employee handbooks, and more to ensure that all companies are in compliance with California law. Call our office today to learn more about how we can help.