As a business owner,
you are inherently responsible for your employee’s well-being while
on the clock and as a result of any workplace conduct. Every year, millions of employees
complain about “horrible bosses” that make their daily life
miserable. And of these millions, many will go on to take their former
employers to court to settle differences regarding discrimination, health
and safety concerns, and harassment.
Avoid being one of these employers who have been sued regarding:
As an employer,
you are required under the Civil Rights Act and Americans With Disabilities
Act to provide equal opportunity to all workers. Leave your opinions about gender, race, religion, and disability at home,
because offering a promotion or improved working conditions to an employee
based on one of these factors is illegal. Make all managers aware of this
policy, which can prevent your company from becoming a breeding ground
Many employees face verbal abuse or harassment from a supervisor or coworker.
Additionally, sexual harassment may occur if an employee feels threatened
sexually by a person of any other gender.
At the first sign of unwanted touching, comments, or bullying, make sure
to investigate the employees involved. Your company could still be at risk if an employee feels management knew
of the improper treatment and made no attempt to stop it. You can reduce
your risk of being sued for workplace harassment if you regularly educate
employees about harassment and implement a zero-tolerance policy.
3. Workplace Injury
Workplace injury is very common, with over 3 million incidents reported
each year. Most injuries will be minor, and the injured party will not
seek any damage compensation if it is covered by their liability insurance.
However, if you contest a claim without evidence beyond a doubt that the
victim is being untruthful in his or her claim, or employer negligence
led to the injuries sustained, you may be at fault and responsible for
additional damage compensation. Your employee may bring you to court,
leading to both negative press and expensive courtroom costs. To avoid this,
make sure that you repair all safety hazards immediately and follow all
regulations in your city regarding building materials and signage.
4. Wrongful Termination
Wrongful termination complaints may occur if an at-will employee is fired
for a discriminatory reason, breach-of-contract occurs, or the employee
believes the firing is retaliation for previous whistleblowing.
Before firing an employee, ensure that they are not under a contract which
says they cannot be fired with exceptions for gross misconduct. You should also take care to investigate all employee complaints seriously,
as many employees who are fired feel the company wanted them to keep quiet
about office misdoings. The employee may receive lost wages and punitive
damages if their case is valid and taken to trial.
5. Wage and Hour Disputes
Ensure all your employees are able to legally work at your company, and
be aware of any restrictions that may require them to have limited hours
(a notable example being teenage employees still attending school). You
also need to ensure that you are meeting the minimum wage.
Additional conflicts arise when contractors are treated as employees, off-the-clock
hours are not properly recorded, or paid breaks are not given. Make sure that for every four hours of work you give employees the appropriate
break, and avoid overseeing contractors with so much control they can
sue for not being paid the fair wage of an employee. Off-the-clock hour
systems must be properly recorded so overtime wages and early/late clock-ins
are accounted for.
Review your business practices to make sure you are protecting yourself
from an unfavorable claim. If you find yourself in a labor dispute with
an employee or on the receiving end of a workplace lawsuit, the best thing to do is
find a lawyer who can help you investigate the allegations and possibly
settle with the employee in question.