Human Resources News & Insights

What’s an employee lawsuit cost these days?

If any of your managers think an employee complaint about unfair treatment or discrimination is unimportant, let them take a look at these statistics.

For starters, the median award for all employment-related claims in 2009 skyrocketed by 60% over 2008.The median amount last year was $326,640.

That scary stat comes from the latest survey by Jury Verdict Research. Here’s more from the survey:

  • The claim where your company will most likely pay the most: retaliation. Judges and juries are especially tough when they perceive than a supervisor got tough with an employee who filed a complaint about discrimination or other unfair treatment.
  • The claim your business will pay the most for if it goes to a jury: age or disability discrimination.
  • The claim your company is most likely to get hit with: sex or race discrimination. They remain the most common.

The new year is a great time to review your policies with all supervisors to ensure everyone understands what’s OK and what’s not in terms of managing people.

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  • Mary

    This is all great information unless of course you live in an at-will state. My husband’s manager demoted him, moved him to a site location further from home, now they are putting him at different shifts during the same week which messes with his diabetes (insulin-dependent). I called state D.O.L. and was told that since he is an at-will employee (no union) his boss can do whatever he wants and there is nothing my husband can do about it. These rules are great for union workers or highly compensated employees who sign contracts, but they are useless for the average employee who is not in a union shop.

  • lwn

    Mary, your husband is disabled and can ask for accomodations for his illness under the ADA law. He should go this route.

  • Mary

    He has told them that he cannot work 3rd shift since he needs to take his insulin and get proper sleep. That’s when they tell him that they have no hours for him. They had him take his 2 weeks vacation already because they were only offering him the 3rd shift. Yet at his original site they do not have the same employee in the 2nd shift position 2 weeks in a row. He is willing to work that shift but they won’t give it to him. This week they tell him they only have Friday & Saturday 2nd shift for him. Next week it is Sunday, Monday & Friday 2nd shift. Yet he was hired 6 years ago as a full time employee who is also on their health insurance (must be full-time for that), and yet he is now barely working enough hours for them to take his insurance payments weekly. And they are still hiring people! If they don’t have the work, why are they hiring people?

  • lwn

    If he hasn’t already gone to the HR dept at his company he needs to do so and let them know about his disability and ask for an accomodation with his hours. I’m sure they will help him, if not then he needs to file a complaint with the EEOC. Go to this website for more information. http://www.ada.gov/workta.htm

  • http://hrmorning.com Debbie

    I am wondering what should be done when an upper management continually makes racial comments. They are not directed at anyone in the office but they are very crude. Usually towards African Americans and Jews. I have told her directly how it bothers me and I fit in neither of those categories. However, many of our employees and clients do!

  • CB

    I Agree – even if your state was not an “at will” employment state (almost every state is), that has nothing to do with whether or not they have to accommodate him if he requests an accommodation (and show that he needs one – which it sounds like he could easily do). It sounds like the DOL was misinterpreting your issue. While his employer can in fact “make him” do all those things, however it is unlawful for them to do so if he has a disability restricting him from doing some of their demands and if he has requested an accommodation (that they are able to provide) and they are refusing to allow it.
    Also, if his company does not have 15 or more employees, the EEOC will not have jurisdiction over his claim and he would have to file at the state level. But if they do, and HR refuses to assist him with what sounds like a reasonable request, he should report it to the EEOC (it doesn’t cost him anything to do so). Best of luck to you.

  • Bob4HR

    Mary,

    Your husband is probably eligible for unemployment benefits if he’s not being offered enough hours of work. He should apply, which may force his employer to offer him more hours.

  • Keith

    I guess I’m not familiar enough with diabetes, but what is different between the 2nd shift and 3rd shift that affects his condition? Are the same facilities not available (e.g. refrigerator to store the insulin) on the 3rd shift. Or is it something with biorythms and his glucose levels at certain times of the day. I’m not sure an ADA accommodation would be required unless you can show with medical evidence that he can’t reasonably control his condition while working on the 3rd shift. If you can show that they are attempting to make his life unbearable so that he’ll quit, thus saving them on any increased medical costs due to his condition, you may also have an action.

    Does your husband think that the demotion and change of locations and shifts is related to an unlawful reason (e.g. race, age)? Some of those may still be enough to get the EEOC to file a charge, especially if the demotion caused a decrease in pay or if the change of locations was great enough to reflect a significant change in working conditions. I would still contact the EEOC if you think there is unlawful actions taking place. The state DOL person may not be an expert in discrimination, or may not even be an appropriate level person to provide that type of guidance.

    Keep in mind that you husband will probably need a sqeaky-clean record with positive evaluationsand you’ll need some “smoking gun” type evidence of wrong-doing to win a case. But don’t disregard this based on one person at the DOl.

  • Arlene

    Mary,

    I believe Bob4HR indicated: Please go ahead have your husband file unemployment it will help him and yourself financially. Good luck Mary…

    Bob4HR Says:
    Your husband is probably eligible for unemployment benefits if he’s not being offered enough hours of work. He should apply, which may force his employer to offer him more hours.

  • Mike R

    From what I can tell from your statements, your husband has insulin dependent diabetes (classified as a disability by EEOC) and has asked not to have his shifts rotated or to be placed on third shift as they aggravate his medical condition. This is a request for an accommodtion that the company needs to respond to. Just as an employee does not have to specifically ask for FMLA to be protected, so too, an employee does not need to use the language “reasonable accommodation.”

    If the company response was to transfer him and rotate shifts or require medical certification and other hoops before responding, then I would think that the company is in BIG LEGAL TROUBLE, because they have already violated the ADA and retaliated. Of course, the goal isn’t to go to court, but to resolve the obstacles to employment.

  • Mike R

    From what I can tell from your statements, your husband has insulin dependent diabetes (classified as a disability by EEOC) and has asked not to have his shifts rotated or to be placed on third shift as they aggravate his medical condition. This is a request for an accommodtion that the company needs to respond to. Just as an employee does not have to specifically ask for FMLA to be protected, so too, an employee does not need to use the language “reasonable accommodation.”

    If the company response was to transfer him and rotate shifts or require medical certification and other hoops before responding, then I would think that the company is in BIG LEGAL TROUBLE, because they have already violated the ADA and retaliated. Of course, the goal isn’t to go to court, but to resolve the obstacles to employment.

    If the company fails to work in good faith with the disabled employee and provide reasonable accommodations when requested, then I can hear the glee in some lawyer’s office. Most of these cases do not go to court, but are settled with a lawyer taking a percentage. The more an employee’s efforts are rebuked or retaliated by the company, the more ammo a lawyer has. The higher the settlement, the more the lawyer gets.

  • http://linkedin Diane

    I would be interested to know actual costs associated with the litigation – attorney fees, etc in addition to the median award amount of $326,640.

  • Rick

    It amazes me how many frivilous law suits are filed these days. There are cases where an employee should be compensated, but for every one of those I suspect 49 are frivilous. The one I have seen most are around FMLA and in every case I have dealt with the person was on intermittant FMLA and was terminated for another unrelated workplace violation. If lawyers even hear there is an Family Medical Leave associated with the employee they try to sue employers. So if an employee clearly breaks a company rule and has an FMLA there is a law suit involved.

    Things are getting out of control. We need losers pay and should have the option to counter sue on these frivilous law suits. Fortunately, I have won every case, but the time and cost involved is a terrible waste of time.

  • Gloria

    Debbie, I dealt with a similar situation years ago while employed as an industrial engineer. Every Monday morning when we had our staff meeting, the boss, the director of manufacturing, would entertain us with racial jokes while we waited for John, a staff member who was always late. I am African-American, so the jokes were usually targeted other ethnic groups-such as Hispanics, Italians, or Polish. One day, when I just couldn’t tolerate it any longer, I stood up and said, “I’m sick and tired of your racial jokes. They’re not at all funny, and I won’t listen to them anymore! When John arrives, page me, and I’ll come back.”

    As I was leaving, he said, “I’m not making Black jokes.”

    My response was, “As soon as I leave the room, you will be.”

    I’m not sure who told the owner of the company about the incident, but he found out. He called the boss in and told him to clean up his act. The owner’s personal secretary, who was the most discreet person I’ve ever known, was an ally and close friend of mine from the beginning. It was she who told me that the boss had been reprimanded for his behavior. The result was, he never made such jokes in my presence again. I am sure he still told them, just not in front of me.

    I guess my point is, your boss also has a boss. If the higher up has no problem with the behavior, then I would not choose to work in that organization any longer.

  • Sonia

    Can company go to your facebook wall without your consent to get information to use against you even if you posted comments from your pc at home or cellphone not using company pc.

  • jerry

    I am a diabetic and was recently terminated. I made 5 requests for reasonable accommodation and was denied 5 times. I even presented a doctors letter that i should be returned to 2nd shift instead of 3rd shift. (i was discharged 36 hours after having presented the doctors letter). it also stated on my discharge documentation that “He stated that his meds were affecting his ability to work” side effects of meds are limitations requiring engagement of the “flexible interactive process”…My case is currently being investigated by the eeoc. any comments??

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