Employers Face Increased Exposure to Employee Lawsuits

Last year, workers netted settlements worth nearly $2 billion. They stemmed from employment discrimination cases, ERISA, the FLSA/WARN Act, and EEOC enforcement. That's why it's wise to have an employment lawyer near you capable of handling an employee filing a lawsuit.

Our employment attorneys represent business clients of all sizes throughout Bucks and Montgomery Counties, regionally and nationally. Call our law offices in Norristown and Doylestown, PA.

Here are some of the settlements and their costs:

  • The ten highest payments in class employment discrimination totaled $597 million.
  • The ten highest-grossing ERISA class settlements totaled $400 million.
  • The ten largest wage-and-hour settlements were worth more than $574 million.
  • The EEOC and other labor agencies' top 10 class action settlements recovered $403 million, twice the top 10 from 2021.

The bottom line? Employees are more open to filing claims and suits against employers for workplace infringements. An employment lawyer can help present your case and avoid a more significant issue.

Your Employment Lawyer Needs to be Versed in Federal and State Laws

There are 20 federal labor laws regulating employer and employee relationships. Some of the more familiar laws include:

  • Fair Labor Standards Act governing minimum wage and overtime.
  • National Labor Relations Act oversees unions and workers' rights to join one.
  • Immigration Reform and Control Act prohibiting discrimination based on citizenship or nationality.
  • Occupational Health and Safety Act requires a safe workplace free of hazards.
  • Equal Pay Act protects against wage discrimination based on gender.

Apart from federal laws, each state has dedicated employment laws. For example, Pennsylvania has nearly 20 employment laws, including smoking laws, parental leave, drug testing, at-will work, etc.

It's a significant reach for any business to grasp all the legal angles of employment law, even independent contractors. That's why finding an experienced employment lawyer near you is important, especially if you run a small or medium-sized business.

5 Common Issues Requiring Employment Lawyers

Employers face numerous risks when it comes to potential employee legal claims. But here's a rundown of five of the more common employment cases facing employers:

1. Discrimination

You've likely heard or read about a discrimination case. Unfortunately, these types of suits are common. Workplace discrimination can take numerous forms, including race, gender, nationality, religion, sex, age, equal pay, etc. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (ECOC) handles discrimination claims.

2. Wrongful Termination

Like most states, Pennsylvania is at-will, meaning an employer can dismiss a worker for any reason provided it's legal. Unlawful termination can stem from discrimination, sexual orientation, mass layoffs without proper notice, etc.

For example, sometimes, an employer fires an employee for reporting a labor violation. This type of wrongful termination has come to be known as a whistleblower. In addition, laws now protect employees from being fired for reporting a work issue. When in doubt, consult with an employment attorney to avoid a potential wrongful term

3. Harassment

Often, discrimination charges include harassment suits. And like discrimination claims, harassment takes several forms, including offensive comments, racial slurs, sexual advancement, etc. Two more common actions include a hostile work environment and sexual harassment.

Since 2000, 99% of Fortune 500 companies have paid settlements relating to discrimination or sexual harassment charges.

Man close to a woman coworker with a pencil in her face to demonstrate workplace harassment and potential need for an employment lawyer

4. Wage Violations

Employers must abide by wage and hour laws. For instance, employees must receive the minimum wage in Pennsylvania, $7.25. Employees denied minimum wage, overtime pay, or time off for rest periods can file a suit against an employer. Indeed, Pennsylvania owns one of the country's strictest Wage Payment and Collection Laws (WPCL).

5. Protected Leave

Employees receive leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). That includes time off for the following:

    • Birth of a child
    • Adopting a child
    • Caring for a family member
    • Taking time off to serve in the armed forces.

Since 2020, the number of COVID-related workplace lawsuits has soared. Often, they relate to other legal claims like discrimination or harassment.

An employment lawyer can help you navigate these employment law concerns. They can devise the best course of action, whether offering a legal defense or negotiating a settlement to avoid costly court fees.

An Employment Law Attorney Can Help Reduce Your Risks

There are some things you can do to reduce your risk, knowing the trend toward employee lawsuits against employers. After all, even if an employee's claim has no merit, you're still left dealing with the potential legal and reputation costs. Your best starting point is hiring an experienced employment lawyer. And that attorney can be on-staff or from a local law firm.

Here are other steps you can take to reduce your risks.

1. Work with an Employment Lawyer to Create an Employee Handbook

It's imperative to present company policies regarding termination, discrimination, harassment, and other work-related concerns. The more you do so, the better your chances of avoiding a legal issue. Additionally, make sure the employee handbook complies with federal and state laws.

So you should have an employment lawyer draft it. At the very least, have one review it for potential flaws. It is also wise to have your employees sign the handbook indicating they have read and agree to the terms.

2. Equal Enforcement

Your handbook should dictate company policies. In addition, as an employer, you must enforce them fairly and without discrimination. Moreover, make sure you follow any procedures in the manual.

3. Documentation

Documenting is critical. In addition, when you address performance or behavior issues, your documentation should clearly define the concern. It should also identify any actions taken to correct the situation.

A paper trail shows that you acted to correct the issue. Again, have the employee sign the document to show they know about the issue.

4. Be Proactive

When you witness discrimination or harassment acts, act immediately. Don't look the other way—equally important follow-up on employee complaints. For instance, failing to respond creates a negative impression. It also fails to prevent poor behavior. As a result, that opens the door to legal concerns.

According to the EEOC, employers can avoid liabilities if the employer takes reasonable steps to prevent and correct the action quickly. In addition, if the employee fails to take advantage of preventive or corrective measures provided by the employer.

5. Train Your Staff and Supervisors

Provide training to your supervisors on handling performance and personnel issues. In addition, inform employees about policies, expectations, and procedures.

Remember, an employment lawyer can work with you on the above steps. You'll benefit because they're familiar with work laws and changes to those laws. As a result, they can head off potential concerns before they become a lawsuit.

Consult with an Employment Lawyer About Restrictive Covenants

If you run a business, you know it's no easy task. You not only compete to win business, but you also compete to hire the best employees.

So it isn't easy when a key employee leaves your business to go to a competitor. Fortunately, restrictive covenants provide some relief. An employment lawyer can help draft these agreements to guard your business interests.

As an employment contract, restrictive covenants prohibit individuals from competing with their ex-employer for a specific time following their departure. They generally include these agreements:

  • Non-compete
  • Non-solicitation
  • Confidentiality and non-disclosure

These agreements must serve a real purpose to be legal. They must also meet these requirements:

  1. Any covenant must be ancillary to the employment relationship.
  2. Any covenant requires adequate consideration where the employee receives something in exchange for signing the covenant. Consideration can include the job, promotion, salary increase, or other benefits.
  3. The restrictive covenant safeguards the employer's business interest.
  4. The covenant must be of reasonable length. For instance, courts typically uphold two-year time limits.

It's essential to note that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has proposed banning non-compete clauses in employment agreements. If enacted, it would prohibit employers in the U.S. from entering into or enforcing non-competes. In addition, existing agreements would need to be rescinded within six months.

Still, employers can enter into non-solicitation and non-disclosure agreements with employees. Talk to an employment lawyer near you for more details.

Have a Law Issue Needing an Employment Lawyer?

We have law offices in Norristown and Doylestown, PA. So our employment lawyers serve clients throughout Bucks, Montgomery, and surrounding counties.

Equally important, Best Law Firms cited us for our labor and employment litigation expertise in the metro Philly area. When you work with us, you know you'll work with some of the best lawyers in the area. Call our firm today; we're here to help.

Employment Law Attorneys

Thomas D. Rees

Thomas D. Rees | labor employment Attorney | High Swartz Attorneys at Law

Labor & Employment Attorney Thomas D. Rees handles litigation and dispute resolution for businesses and schools in and around Pennsylvania.

Joel D. Rosen

Joel Rosen | corporate law attorney at High Swartz Attorneys for Law

Managing Partner and corporate law attorney Joel D. Rosen has 30+ years experience practicing law in employment, franchise and business areas.

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