It is not unheard of for working individuals to sue their employer. Employees sue their employers for a variety of reasons. Some are suing because they were discriminated against, while others are fighting to protect their rights as employees. Still, others are filing suit over injuries they received in the workplace. This might seem unusual considering the laws of workers’ compensation and how it works. However, such suits do happen more often than you might think. And, while any lawsuit does come with its fair share of risks, there can be merit behind them, as well. This is especially true when an employee does not receive fair workers’ compensation benefits.
In this blog post, our attorneys at Gordon & Gordon will discuss the top reasons employees sue their employers and what is and is not a valid claim.
Can an Employee Sue an Employer?
Suing an employer can be a tricky thing, as employers and the companies they work under are often well-protected legally with workers’ comp insurances. However, an employee can sue an employer successfully with the right legal representation. In fact, our attorneys at Gordon & Gordon have led several successful workers’ comp lawsuits.
Aside from workers’ comp suits, there are a number of other reasons an employee might sue their employer. Other employment lawsuits may be due to wrongful termination, discrimination, or harassment claims. Overall, there are a multitude of reasons why someone might have a valid claim against their employer.
What Can I Sue My Employer For?
When an employee suffers a workplace injury, they generally have the means to pursue financial compensation through workers’ compensation. Workers’ comp insurance provides workers with benefits to cover any medical bills and lost wages when they receive an injury on the job. It also covers temporary or permanent disability benefits and death benefits for fatal workplace accidents.
In addition, workers’ comp is meant to offer protection to the employer by reducing their risk of being sued. However, just because you have workers’ comp insurance in place does not mean you aren’t able to sue for your workplace injuries.
There are a few reasons a worker might want to pursue legal recourse through a lawsuit instead of going through the workers’ comp insurance policy. For one, the policy might not provide enough assistance to cover the cost of your medical bills and/or time off. Other reasons may be if the employer mismanages the employee’s workers’ comp claim or if they don’t carry adequate insurance.
In addition to work place injury lawsuits, retaliation, wrongful termination, discrimination, and harassment may all be legal grounds to sue an employer. We’ll explain each of these claims in further detail below.
Retaliation Against Protected Activities
The EEOC protects employees from retaliation against their employers for taking place in protected activities. Protected activities include things such as the following:
- Retaliation against a workers’ comp claim.
- Filing or being a witness in an EEOC charge, complaint, investigation, or lawsuit.
- Communicating with a supervisor or manager about employment discrimination, including harassment.
- Answering questions during an employer investigation of alleged harassment.
- Refusing to follow orders that would result in discrimination.
- Resisting sexual advances, or intervening to protect others.
- Requesting accommodation for a disability or for a religious practice.
- Asking managers or coworkers about salary information to uncover potentially discriminatory wages.
If an employer retaliates against an employee for practicing any of these protected activities, they are in violation of the law and there is a means to sue. Retaliation might look like termination, demotion, implementation of an unjust work schedule, tacking on unrealistic job responsibilities, and the like
Employees may file suit against their employers following an unlawful termination. Wrongful termination describes an individual who works at a company and is then terminated from their job for illegal reasons. Employees typically sue for wrongful termination if they feel like they were fired without cause or if they weren’t given proper notice before their termination of employment. This is illegal based on protections found in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as well as the American With Disabilities Act. Typically, these cases involve employers violations of the provisions under Title VII and/or retaliation against an employee who exercised their rights under this law.
Employees sue their employers for discrimination when they are treated differently because of a protected characteristic, such as race or gender. Other protected characteristics include the following:
- National Origin
- Sexual Orientation
Unfortunately, discrimination in the workplace is all too common. The EEOC estimates that around 60% of Americans have either witnessed or experienced some form of employment discrimination over the course of their careers.
Workplace harassment occurs when a coworker, supervisor, or employer speaks or behaves in a way that makes a worker feel uncomfortable. This is typically by way of offensive, inappropriate, or derogatory remarks or actions. This type of behavior often creates a hostile work environment.
Sexual harassment occurs when a coworker, supervisor, or employer makes unwelcome sexual advances towards a worker. Many times, the worker worries that they will lose their job if they don’t reciprocate these actions, but also if they were to report them. They can feel completely stuck in their situation. This is where a lawsuit might be helpful. To sue on the grounds of sexual harassment, a worker must have proof that they made an attempt to file claims with the company before but no resolution was made. They also may need proof of said sexual harassment if the case is taken to a court of law.
Grounds to Sue Employer
If you feel that your employer has violated your employment and workers’ compensation rights, there are a few legal grounds to sue. For example, the consequences of terminating an employee on workers’ comp may result in a lawsuit. The law considers this retaliation and wrongful termination. There are also laws in place which prohibit wrongful termination for reasons like whistle-blowing about wrongdoing by your employer. To prove this in court, it must be shown either by clear, convincing evidence or by a preponderance of evidence that your firing was with bad intentions. If your employer can show good faith reasons for terminating you, their argument may prevail over yours.
On the subject of workers’ comp, an employer who refuses to pay a fair amount of compensation for workplace injury may also be hit with a lawsuit. Workers in Louisiana and all across the country have a right to adequate workers’ comp insurance, and failure to provide it offers the grounds to sue.
An employee may also sue their employer on the grounds of breach of contract. So, if your employer breached a written agreement and refuses to remedy it, they’re liable for any damages that ensue. This includes back pay.
If an employee feels that he or she has been discriminated against or harassed, they may bring suit on the basis of discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This federal law prohibits discrimination in the workplace on account of race, color, or sex, among other things. It applies to employers with 15 employees and more (with some exceptions). There are also state laws which prohibit wrongful termination for reasons such as whistle-blowing about wrongdoing by your employer under public policy grounds.
How To Sue An Employer
There are a few things you must do as an employee before you plan to sue your employer. The first thing you should do is to start internally. First, alk to your supervisor or HR about the problem. See if there is something they can do to remedy your situation. Many jobs have a grievance procedure that allows employees to address complaints or concerns. If they cannot come to a reasonable solution internally, then you should seriously begin considering a lawsuit.
If this is the route you choose to take, you’ll want to document everything you can. This includes any evidence of the situation or injury, a timeline of events leading up to it, and proof that your company was aware of the situation but did nothing to remedy it. Any witnesses to the incident will also be very helpful to your claim.
Then, contact an experienced Shreveport attorney like those at Gordon & Gordon. Your attorney at G&G will schedule a free consultation with you to learn more about your case. They will also advise you on what your next best move may be.
For More Information, Contact Gordon & Gordon Today!
At Gordon & Gordon Law Firm, we’ve been helping residents of Northwest Louisiana in a broad range of legal matters for over 30 years. Our legal experience will provide you with the tools you need to get the resolution you deserve. And remember, we don’t charge unless you get a settlement! Call us today at 318-716-HELP or complete an online intake form via our website to begin your journey towards compensation.