How to Avoid Liability for Employee Lawsuits

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How to Avoid Liability for Employee Lawsuits

Lawsuits are a frightening part of business in any event, but a successful suit filed by a disgruntled employee can cause your business to crash and burn, and possibly take away personal assets as well, depending on your business structure.

Ominous stories such as the one below are more and more a part of today’s business landscape:

Former City Light Employee Receives $812,250 Settlement in Discrimination Lawsuit

It’s not every day that you hear about a race discrimination and harassment case based on a hostile workplace environment. However, a recent seattletimes.nwsource.com article reported on such an incident. According to the report, the city of Seattle recently settled a discrimination lawsuit with an ex-employee of City Light for $812,250. The woman was awarded $503,000 in 2007 for race discrimination and harassment. Interestingly, the city’s appeal after the 2007 case resulted in the appeals courts upholding the harassment verdict, but dismissing the half a million dollar damage award due to the statute of limitations having already expired.

Based on the article, the jury determined that the woman had endured workplace hostility because of her race and that she was underpaid for the work she was doing. The jury verdict also found that City Light discriminated against her and another long-term employee who was awarded $947,000. At the time of the award, it was the fifth incident within ten years that City Light had either settled or had a jury rule against it in a racial-discrimination case. The four prior incidents cost the city-owned utility over $1 million.

Although the above mentioned case did not involve a personal injury accident that caused harm to a worker while on the job, the case is indicative of the many responsibilities that an employer has the duty of upholding. The discrimination case also emphasizes the importance of understanding the elements of the statue of limitations when filing a claim against another person or entity.

Full post as published by Seattle Injury Blog on December 08, 2009.

If this employer had followed the best practices of the human resources industry, as the policies in Your Employee Handbook relating to managing employee grievances, maintaining a non-hostile work environment, and wage and hour laws, they may have avoided this award entirely. A pro-active, preventative set of policies, clearly communicated and acknowledged, and implemented consistently, is the best defense against such legal action. Be sure you’re protected, with the advice of an experience attorney, and the assistance of Your Employee Handbook.

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