Top Reasons to Sue an Employer
Employees have rights that protect them from unfair treatment or discrimination by their employers. While it is important for employers to know and abide by these laws, it may be equally important for workers to be aware of their rights and how to exercise them. When employers violate these rights, workers may have sufficient grounds to file lawsuits against them in a court of law. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employees filed 72,675 discrimination charges against their employers in 2019.
While pursuing legal action against an employer is common, it’s not common for employees to win these cases. Workers only won about 1% of federal trial civil lawsuits for harassment, discrimination, or retaliation. The other lawsuits that employees filed were dropped, lost, or settled.
The process for filing a discrimination claim against or suing an employer is long. It takes about 180 days for a claim to be investigated by the EEOC, after which plaintiffs have 90 days to file a lawsuit. There are many reasons an employee may feel they have the right to pursue legal action against their employer.
While employment may be terminated at any time in an at-will employment state, there are still ways an employer may illegally terminate an employee. For example, an employee has been wrongfully terminated if they were let go:
- Without reason.
- For poor performance without warning or proof.
- When they had a verbal or written contract in place.
- Directly after they filed a complaint relating to the workplace or co-workers.
- Without supervisors following company policy.
To pursue a wrongful termination case, an employee must show proof that they were let go without justification. Evidence of this may include an employee contract, written promise for employment, or proof of a verbal contract.
The Wages and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) protects employees from unfair pay deductions and sets important standards for overtime pay, youth employment, and recordkeeping. An employee who had their pay deducted without reason or warning may sue an employer for violating the employment agreement.
Federal legislation requires most employees to be paid at least minimum wage, which is $7.25 per hour. Hourly wages must be paid to employees for the time they’re present at the workplace and officially on-duty. Employees who work more than 40 hours per week must be paid overtime for the hours they worked over 40 at a rate that’s at least time-and-a-half.
Employers must keep accurate records of the hours employees work and the pay they’re issued. A poster that outlines the legislation in the FLSA must also be prominently displayed in the workplace.
An employee who feels their pay has been deducted wrongfully should hire an employment law expert to assist in pursuing legal action. The worker will need to present their records, including notes on the hours and times they worked, as well as paycheck stubs and their employment contract. These items may be used as proof of the illegal pay deduction in a court of law.
In most cases, employees who suffer a personal injury while working may pursue financial compensation for medical bills and time off through their employer’s worker’s compensation insurance policy. If the employer mismanages the worker’s compensation claim, doesn’t carry adequate insurance, or the financial assistance provided isn’t enough, the employee may need to pursue legal action.
The employee may need to provide proof the employer didn’t offer enough compensation to cover medical expenses with medical bills or records. To provide adequate evidence that an employer was negligent or didn’t provide a safe working environment, the worker may also need to provide photos of the workplace hazard when suing the employer.
An employee who is the victim of workplace discrimination may pursue legal action against their employer. However, the employee is burdened with proving that they suffered from direct employment discrimination that had nothing to do with poor job performance. In addition to proving that they perform their job well, the employee must also be able to prove they’re a member of a protected class that is discriminated against.
Additionally, the employee must prove that the discriminatory action took place and that it was a result of the employee being a member of the protected class. For example, if an employee feels they were disciplined unfairly because they are female, they may pursue legal action. However, the female worker must prove she performs her job well, that the disciplinary action occurred, and that the only reason it occurred was that she was female.
Sexual and Workplace Harassment
An employee may experience workplace harassment if a co-worker or supervisor makes offensive remarks or performs other inappropriate actions that make the worker feel uncomfortable. In most cases, workplace harassment is related to discrimination. To file a lawsuit against an employer, the worker must prove they are a member of a protected class and that the harassment occurred.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is another reason an employee may pursue legal action against an employer. If a coworker, supervisor, or manager makes unwelcome sexual advances towards an employee, the worker may feel uncomfortable and scared about losing their job if they don’t reciprocate.
To sue for sexual harassment, an employee must have proof that they attempted to file claims with their employer or human resources department with no resolution. The employee may also need to provide proof of sexual advances in a court of law.
It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee for filing a claim or pursuing legal action against the employer. An employer may retaliate against a worker by implementing excessive schedule changes, adding unrealistic job duties, or unjustifiably demoting the employee.
To prove they experienced retaliation, an employee may need to provide a timeline of events, including information on the complaint or claim they made against the employer. Evidence of the retaliatory action, such as proof of a schedule change or added job duties, may also be required when filing a lawsuit.
Defamation occurs when an employer makes a false statement about an employee and the statement directly affects their pay or other employment opportunities. While rude or blunt comments may be uncomfortable or hard to hear from an employer, a worker cannot sue for defamation due to these remarks.
To pursue legal action against an employer due to defamation, the employee must provide evidence that the employer made the statement. They must also be able to prove that they lost out on wages or employment opportunities due to the remark made.
Before suing your employer, you may need to find local legal help to ensure you have a case. The legal process is extensive and it’s not common for workers to win lawsuits against their employers. However, if you feel you have proper evidence and a viable reason to sue, it’s important to exercise your right to pursue legal action against your employer.