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Employment litigation is a lawsuit in which an employee sues an employer or an employer is sued because of an employment-related issue. At issue may be claims of discrimination or harassment. Other types of employment litigation may involve pay, overtime, or scheduling. Employment litigation can also include an employee’s claim of action illegal under whistle blower protections, violations of workplace safety, or issues related to benefits such as insurance, workers compensation, or pension. An example of employee litigation brought by a non-employee is a lawsuit filed by a job applicant who feels as if employment was wrongly denied.
Though many employees are considered to have employment on an at-will basis, much employment litigation results from terminated positions. If the employer was found to have taken the action because of the employee’s race, gender, or other protected class, the action was illegal. Employers are advised to provide employees with their expectations in writing and develop a process that leads to discipline and dismissal in order to protect themselves against this type of employment litigation.
Another common reason for employment litigation is harassment. Harassment can be defined as any type of behavior directed against an individual that is more than the average employee could be expected to endure. If the harassment is based on the employee’s inclusion in a protected class, such as race, gender, or sexual orientation, it is illegal. Employers are advised to have anti-harassment policies in place, to enforce these policies, and to respond to complaints immediately to avoid this type of lawsuit.
Discrimination is another common area of employment litigation. It can be part of another type of lawsuit, such as those based on improper termination or harassment, or can be the reason for the lawsuit by itself. Discrimination includes negative actions taken against an employee based on that person’s inclusion in one of the protected classes. It can also include discrimination based on other classes such as military status or the employee filing for bankruptcy.
Employment litigation can result when an employee feels as if the employer is unfairly retaliating. This can occur because an employee exercised a right or reported some type of violation in the workplace. In nearly all instances, retaliation is illegal.
Most employment lawsuits never make it to trial. The courts dismiss some of the cases. Most companies will try to settle the remaining cases out of court. This is done not only so that the company can avoid possible negative publicity, but also because it saves the employer time and money.