8 Ways to Get Sued by Your Employees
Business owners have the responsibility to protect their companies and their personal assets in the event of a lawsuit. With these actions under your belt, your business should be well on its way to a legal- and hassle-free future.
Retaliate Against Employees Who Complain about Sexual Harassment
Retaliation cases are easy for employees to win and they produce high verdicts. Sexual harassment and retaliation are a natural combination because jilted harassers often retaliate against employees who reject them. The perfect storm arises when a subordinate employee complains about sexual harassment by a manager and winds up fired in the aftermath. That is for sure one of the 8 Ways to Get Sued by Your Employees.
When this occurs, the company faces liability for both sexual harassment and retaliation. But the worst part is that the company looks terrible and will need to write a large settlement check or face a potentially high verdict. Companies can avoid this situation by protecting employees who make sexual harassment complaints against their superiors. If the complaining employee is truly a bad apple, do not terminate them for at least a year after the storm passes and make sure the performance problems are legitimate and well documented. Would you accept that this is one of the 8 Ways to Get Sued by Your Employees.
Everyone is born “nonexempt”!
That is, they are owed overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours a week. Human resources manager and employee-relations experts makes it a point to remind managers that a salary exemption isn’t a right, and it’s not a reward for good performance. Your employee needs to meet the strict criteria for exemption to be ineligible for overtime, per the Fair Labor Standards Act, the federal statute that regulates pay. If they don’t meet the exemption, they are not only eligible for overtime, they cannot even waive that right. Thus, be careful in playing the exempt/non-exempt game as this may be one of the 8 Ways to Get Sued by Your Employees.
Terminate Employees Who Inquire About Overtime Pay!
Most wage and hour class actions are started by disgruntled employees who get fired. The odds of litigation increase substantially if a company fires employees who inquire about overtime pay. This will create the impression that that company is violating labor laws and induce wage and hour litigation.
Small companies need to take these inquiries seriously and treat employees fairly. Firing employees who ask about overtime pay and other wage issues is a sure way to get sued and one of the 8 Ways to Get Sued by Your Employees.
Stop deducting from your exempt employees’ paychecks!
There’s a trade off with exempt employees. You don’t have to pay them overtime, but you also cannot dock their paychecks, even if they leave a hour early or take a long lunch. I’ve seen people get their pay docked for all these things, and they are all illegal. What’s more, if you dock your exempt employee’s check for missing partial days, you’ve automatically made the employee non-exempt and you owe overtime. Since you owed overtime and you have not paid it, this could be one of the 8 Ways to Get Sued by Your Employees.
- Don’t allow employees to work off the clock!
You’re a team! You’re all in it together! Your hourly workforce must be paid for every minute they work. Working off the clock is illegal–not for the employee, but for the employer. And, furthermore, even if you say don’t do it, but the employee does it anyway, you’re still on the hook to pay for their time. You can fire the person, but you must pay first.
Fire Employees Over Pregnancy Related Issues!
Pregnancy and disability discrimination laws were recently expanded to protect employees from any kind of pregnancy related discrimination including pregnancy related medical problems and breast feeding. Companies, however, continue to fire employees over these issues. Pregnancy discrimination cases are on the rise and employees are winning in court.
Companies should let their employees take time off for any pregnancy related matter and allow them to breastfeed at work. Firing an employee during this period is asking for a lawsuit.
You cannot discriminate on the basis of race, gender, age, national origin, disability, religion and pregnancy status. Some states and localities have additional requirements, such as sexual orientation, as well. Don’t do it. It opens you up to a whole host of lawsuits.
Fire Disabled Employees Who Request Accommodations!
Companies are required to work closely with disabled employees to help them do their jobs. Employers are also prohibited from discriminating against disabled employees. One sure way to get sued is to violate both of these requirements at the same time.
This happens when a company fires a disabled employee in response to a request for reasonable accommodations. For example, it was a case a while ago involving a long term employee who was diagnosed with cancer. The employee was able to beat the disease but needed a flexible schedule for a short time to recover from treatment. When the employee asked for a flexible schedule, the company fired him.
The employee sued for discrimination (i.e. firing him because he had cancer) and denial of reasonable accommodations. The company eventually settled after years of litigation. If the company went to trial, it risked looking like an insensitive organization that fired people for getting sick and asking for help.
Pick Fights With Difficult Employees!
Every company eventually hires a few problem employees. The kind of employee that causes problems at every turn and engages in bizarre or unprofessional behavior.
The goal in terminating these employees is to get rid of them. But sometimes companies make the mistake of disputing the employee’s application for unemployment benefits. This can provoke a lawsuit as some employees see this as the final straw.
At our law firm, we talk to people frequently who say that they were angry about getting fired but willing to let it go – until the company challenged their request for unemployment benefits. If your company routinely challenges unemployment claims, make an exception for these employees. Don’t pick fights with difficult people and instead focus on your business.
These are examples of behavior that can embroil a business in an employment litigation. Often the driving force behind these cases is an employee’s desire to get revenge or strong feelings of being wronged. They best way to avoid being sued is to treat employees well and listen to their complaints.
Another great way to avoid being sued is to provide certain departing employees with a severance payment in exchange for a release.
Business owners have the responsibility to protect their companies and their personal assets in the event of a lawsuit. With these actions under your belt, your business should be well on its way to a legal- and hassle-free future. If you need further assistance you could call Daniel Lenghea PA that could help you in avoiding the costly mistakes and be sued by your employees.