Common HR lawsuits and how to avoid them

It is important to know about the most common lawsuits in human resources, because charges of workplace discrimination occur fairly frequently across the United States. American employers faced a record number of class-action lawsuits in 2015, with more than 1,300 rulings across the nation. The financial risks of such cases are enormous, with the monetary value of employment-related class-action settlements reaching an all-time high in 2015. The top 10 settlements alone totaled nearly $2.5 billion. The last several years have been transformative in class-action and collective-action litigation involving workplace issues.

Common Human Resources lawsuits

Overtime: Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), non-salaried, hourly employees must be paid overtime in certain situations. Employers must accurately monitor the number of hours employees work, and be sure to pay overtime when required.

Harassment: It can take many forms, from sexually inappropriate comments by a manager, to bullying by a co-worker. Victims often file lawsuits when the employer fails to take action after the victim files a complaint. Preventing harassment starts with a strict policy and guidelines, outlined in an employee handbook.

Personal Injury: Workplace injuries are very common. Typically, they are covered by the employer’s worker’s compensation insurance, but it’s still very important to create a culture of worker safety, respond to all safety issues and thoroughly train staff on workplace safety.

Discrimination: Employees may file charges if they belong to a protected class and feel they have been treated unfairly. Protected classes under federal and state law include gender, race, religion, age, disability, national origin, color, family status, marital status, sexual orientation and veteran status. If an employee is of a protected class, is performing his or her job satisfactorily, and has suffered an adverse action (termination, reduced hours, lack of promotion, etc.) as a result of the protected status, then he or she could bring charges.

Wrongful Termination: Employees may bring suit if they feel they were wrongfully terminated, such as in retaliation for a complaint or for taking leave to care for a loved one. Employers can defend charges by proving a termination was legal through accurate records of performance, communications, warnings and employee discipline.

HR Law is related to Labor and Employment law and encompasses the various laws and regulations specific to HR professionals. For more information about Human Resources Law, Jason Hanold suggests that you visit the following link: https://www.hg.org/human-resources-law.html

Human Resources_jason hanold

Image courtesy of City of Olathe at Flickr.com

Avoiding Human Resources lawsuits

Lawsuits against a company’s human resource practices can be costly, even if the employee loses his or her case. Avoiding the risk of an HR lawsuit is well worth the investment of time and money. While employee-generated lawsuits are increasing every year, it is possible to avoid the most common charges, such as discrimination, personal injury, wrongful termination, harassment and failure to pay overtime. Fortunately, a number of clear themes have emerged that may help HR executives direct their efforts in order to mitigate their organization’s risk. By following this steps, Human Resources professionals can be prepared to defend his or her company practices against a lawsuit.

Document: Make proper documentation a top priority. Record all employee reviews, performance evaluations, attendance records and other benchmarks. Be sure supervisors are honest and accurate in employee performance reviews, and create a paper trail that tells the whole story, particularly in cases of progressive discipline.

Train managers and employees: From sexual harassment to worker safety, training can go a long way. Supervisors should receive training in company policies, federal, state and local regulations and best practices. Employees should receive safety training, as well as training in how to maintain a welcoming work environment.

Comply with the law: This may seem obvious, but keeping in compliance with all applicable local, state and federal laws regarding employment discrimination is absolutely necessary.

Educate yourself: Employers are responsible for staying on top of changes to rules and regulations in the Fair Labor Standards Act, state and local wage and hour laws and other standards.

Maintain consistent policies: Be sure that policies apply evenly to all employees across the board. Demonstrating favoritism to a certain class or singling out workers you don’t like for disciplinary action are two invitations to discrimination charges. Avoid litigation by creating fair policies, ensure all employees adhere to the same standards and enforce all the rules.

Accommodate pregnant employees: Failing to accommodate pregnant employees may expose employers to ADA claims (Americans with Disabilities Act), based on temporary disability caused by pregnancy.

Broad Interpretation of LGBT Rights in the Workplace: Protect workers from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity by defining such discrimination as an allegation of sex discrimination.

This presented information is important for the Employers, but if you are an Employee, don´t miss this relevant blog post regarding workplace bullying:

https://jasonhanold.wordpress.com/2016/06/05/bullying-at-work-dont-let-it-happen-to-you

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