Many employment discrimination lawsuits could be avoided if things were done differently early on.
In our experience, lawsuits arising out of employment – whether for discrimination, retaliation, unfair wages or other – could often, but certainly not always, have been prevented. Here are 3 reasons why we believe employees sue their employers (current or former):
- Blatant sexual or illegal harassment by a supervisor: this one should be obvious. When an employee has been the victim of sexual harassment or discrimination by her direct supervisor, she often has no other choice but to file a claim (whether with the EEOC, State Division of Human Rights, or a straightforward lawsuit). Employees in this situation often feel like they have nowhere to turn within the company given that the conduct is coming from the very top.
- Reported sexual harassment or employment discrimination has not been addressed: In this situation, the employee has been dealing with harassment or employment discrimination – often by a co-worker or non-owner supervisor – for some period of time. Many times the employee has complained verbally or in writing to the owner of the company or human resources, only to be told that the company would “investigate” the situation. Days and weeks pass without the company addressing the problem and it starts again or gets worse. At this point, the employee often feels like she has been ignored and has no other option.
- Employee is retaliated against for complaining: In this very common example the employee has dealt with harassment for a long time – often months or years – maybe occasionally making complaints. At some point the employee decides enough is enough, and makes yet another formal written complaint (or, perhaps, files a claim with the EEOC or Division of Human Rights). These complaints are legally protected, but we know from experience that employers often treat the victim in these cases as the wrongdoer. The employer – who doesn't want to deal with this complaint – begins a pattern of retaliation, which usually looks like this: first is a hostile response to the complaint suggesting, yet again, “okay, we'll look into it.” Second is an increased frequency in oversight of the employee's work. Next comes the write ups for things that never would have resulted in a write up before. Finally comes the meeting where HR or the owner says, “this just isn't working out.” At this point, the employee feels (rightfully) that she has been railroaded, and is angry. This is perhaps the most common reason behind lawsuits alleging employment discrimination.
One of the common themes here – and in many lawsuits – is that one side ignored or responded inappropriately to the concerns of the other. As with many areas of life, people want to feel like they are being heard and, when they believe they are being ignored or worse, it becomes much easier for them to proceed with legal action.
Questions about a legal action? Give us a call.