To hear some employers tell it, avoiding lawsuits for employment law violations is incredibly complex. The truth is that many violations of worker rights involve employers trying to save money or avoid the hassle of firing obviously inappropriate personnel. It is not difficult for employers to obey the state and federal laws protecting employees. Many simply choose not to. An insurance company whose clients include many small- and medium-sized businesses recently conducted a study of employee lawsuits against employers. The advice that came out of that study is that simple measures all employers should have in place would prevent many of these lawsuits.
The study, conducted by specialty insurer Hiscox, identified four areas for employers to focus in avoiding employment law violations. Those areas included:
- Same-sex marriage
- Discrimination against transgender employees
- Minimum wage laws
The states where employee lawsuits were most common often had laws extending beyond the protections offered by federal law in these categories.
The report went on to make several other suggestions for employers looking to minimize their exposure to lawsuits. One suggestion was to have written hiring procedures in place. Employers were also advised to have an up-to-date employee handbook and to train employees on workplace discrimination and harassment issues.
There is nothing complicated about state and federal employment laws. Employers should be well aware of the rules and should have no trouble following them. Employees have a right to a workplace free from discrimination and abuse. Things like overtime pay, family medical leave and workers' compensation are not innovations. Qualified employees have a right to expect employers to abide by the law. The fact that U.S. companies have an 11.7 percent chance of being sued for employment law violations shows just how frequently that expectation is not met. For their own sake, and for the sake of their employees, these companies should take steps to do better.
Source: Insurance Journal, "What Are Chances a U.S. Business Will Face an Employee Lawsuit," 28 October 2015