What are the most common types of lawsuits filed against businesses?
Employment Discrimination and Wrongful Termination
Many lawsuits filed against businesses are based on allegations of discrimination, harassment, retaliation, or wrongful termination. Most workers are protected from these acts by federal and state anti-discrimination laws. Federal laws bar employers from discriminating against workers based on gender, race, religion, age, disability and other characteristics. Many states have enacted similar laws.
Harassment and retaliation are types of discrimination. Federal law defines harassment as unwelcome conduct based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age, disability, or genetic information. In a harassment claim, the alleged perpetrator is often a manager or co-worker. The plaintiff claims that he or she reported the harassment to the employer but the employer failed to stop it.
Retaliation refers to the firing, demotion, harassment or similar act committed by an employer to punish an employee who has filed a discrimination complaint or lawsuit. A worker who has been fired after filing a discrimination complaint may sue the employer for retaliation.
Wrongful termination means firing an employee in violation of the law. Many wrongful termination claims filed against employers are based on allegations of discrimination. For example, a 50-year-old worker who was terminated files a wrongful termination suit against her employer. Her suit claims that she was fired solely because of her age.
Many small businesses do not employ a human resources professional. If the business owner is not familiar with federal and state anti-discrimination laws, the company will be vulnerable to lawsuits. Claims alleging discrimination and other employment-related acts may be insured under an employment practices liability (EPL) policy.