Employment-related lawsuits are common and employees may sue employers for a variety of reasons. Sometimes even the most buttoned-up organization may find itself charged with an employment law violation that ends in a courtroom.
A lawsuit can be costly and inconvenient for an employer, so the best way to minimize legal damages is to take appropriate action in advance of any lawsuit so that you can successfully defend and defeat that lawsuit at the lowest cost possible. Here some common workplace lawsuits and how to efficiently manage them.
When you think of harassment in the workplace, sexual harassment may come to mind. While sexual harassment is common, it is not the only type. Anyone can be harassed, and sex does not have to be involved. Harassment that is based on an employee’s race, skin color, citizenship, nationality, sex, gender, age, religion, disability, pregnancy, or veteran status is illegal under state and federal law. Harassment can be verbal or physical and include unwanted physical contact as well as jokes, slurs, name-calling, insults, and innuendos.
Even if another employee, a vendor, or a customer does the harassment, the employer can still be held liable. Because of this, employers need to be proactive in holding training regarding harassment in the workplace and what behavior must be avoided. To minimize exposure to this type of suit, employers must have a zero-tolerance attitude toward harassment. Employers should also have a thorough and well-explained complaint procedure, and they should investigate complaints. To the extent necessary, prompt remedial action should be taken.
Discrimination is similar to harassment, but it focuses more on unfair treatment. An employee may be treated unfavorably based on the protected classes listed above. Some examples include promoting certain employees over others based on their race, not hiring or promoting workers over the age of 40, paying women less than men for the same work, and denying paid leave to women who have given birth.
Managers are often at the root of discrimination claims, so employers must make it a priority to stay abreast of employment laws and ensure their managers receive appropriate training to prevent discriminatory behavior. Managers and supervisors should receive training on local, state, and federal discrimination laws and should receive periodic refreshers. In addition, all policies and procedures should be well-documented and available to all employees and just as with harassment, there should be a good complaint process and investigations into complaints.
Unpaid Overtime & Other Pay Issues
There is much for employers to know when it comes to pay-related employment law. We all work to earn money to support ourselves and everyone want to be paid appropriately according to state and federal wage laws. When employees are paid incorrectly, whether intentionally or unintentionally, employers can be sued for wage and hour violations.
Unlike some other states, the minimum wage in Texas is the same as the federal minimum wage: $7.25 an hour. All employees must be paid a minimum of $7.25 per hour. Also, employees who work more than 40 hours in a workweek must be paid overtime wages (1.5x their regular pay rate) for the hours worked in excess of 40 hours. For example, a worker who earns $10 an hour should be paid $15 per hour for each hour after the 40th hour worked in a week.
Employers must also keep records of their employees’ time and wages and must display a Department of Labor poster that explains Fair Labor Standards Act requirements. Keeping accurate records and ensuring employees are paid correctly is the best way to avoid a wage-related employment lawsuit.
Wrongful termination is not a legal cause of action unless the termination is for an unlawful reason. Thus, it should be more appropriately termed “unlawful termination.” Wrongful termination is tricky since Texas and most other states (except Montana) allow for at-will employment, with some exceptions. At-will employment arrangements mean that the employer or employee can end the employment relationship at any time, for any legal reason.
There are situations in which terminating an employee is illegal. For example, firing an employee for discriminatory reasons is illegal. So is firing an employee who has a valid employment contract before their contract ends or retaliating against an employee who filed a complaint against the employer.
In any case, the burden of proof in a wrongful termination case falls on the employee. Therefore, they must have evidence that shows that the firing was illegal. Even though employers are not technically required to offer any cause for termination, they can defend their case by having accurate and detailed employment records readily available. These records may include employee performance, employee discipline, and communications proving that the termination was legal.
Contact Our Frisco Employment Law Attorneys Today
Lawsuits can be costly, time-consuming, and inconvenient for a business to deal with. By understanding the most common lawsuits, you can take steps to avoid them.
The Frisco employment lawyers at Simon Paschal PLLC can help employers deal with workplace issues before they turn into costly lawsuits. We will help you understand the employment laws that apply to your situation. Call (972) 893-9340 or fill out the online form to schedule a consultation with our office.