Why Am I Still Getting Sued By Employees?

(From Industrial Distribution Magazine).

After covering union challenges and safety compliance concerns in previous articles, we’ll conclude the series by discussing those common employment law claims that continue to vex distribution employers. I will deviate from the usual format and first provide some big picture suggestions on how to minimize all types of employment law claims.
Take a long and serious look at how you select and train frontline supervisors, and you may determine why many employment law claims occur. Frontline supervisors are often ignorant of the more challenging aspects of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act and workers’ compensation retaliation protections. A related issue is that many frontline supervisors have not been trained in communication and in consistently applying workplace requirements. Advertisers long ago figured out that “perception is as powerful as reality.”  If employees feel that their supervisor was a “jerk” to them or treated them differently than their co-workers, the normal response is to believe that a sinister motive guided the supervisor’s actions. If one is over 40, Latino, African American, has a disability condition or recently complained about safety or discrimination, that person might suspect that he was treated differently because of one of those factors.

Some surveys show that more than 80 percent of employers are dissatisfied with their frontline supervisory development. When pressed, many employers cannot define what constitutes a “good” supervisor” or provide detailed examples of how they develop supervisors to manage employees. Not surprisingly, frontline supervisors say that the number one reason they are reluctant to discipline or discharge an employee is that they fear that they will get the company (or themselves) sued. As a result, supervisors allow performance problems to linger and fester.
Claims De Jour
Although claims of race discrimination have increased more slowly than other types of discrimination charges, they remain the most common claim. We have seen an increase in claims of national origin discrimination, but that also is a reflection of a changing workplace more than of negative attitudes toward new citizens or those of Islamic persuasion. One of the fastest growing areas involves allegations of same sex discrimination by male employees. In most cases, horseplay and teasing got out of control until an employee alleged that the treatment created a hostile environment or was based on his sex or other factor. And don’t forget about the rise in claims of harassment based on a mental or physical disability condition under the ADA.  However, any plaintiff lawyer will tell you that the three boom areas are:  the ADA, retaliation claims and wage-hour actions. We won’t talk about wage-hour claims in this article, but suffice it to say, few employers have classified all employees properly or maintained adequate records.  (CONTINUE READING AT INDUSTRIAL DISTRIBUTION MAGAZINE)

About mavity2012

I am a Senior Partner operating out of the Atlanta office of Fisher & Phillips LLP, one of the Nation’s oldest and largest management employment and labor firms. My practice is national and keeps me on the road or in one of our 28 offices about 50 percent of the time. I created and co-chair the Firm's Workplace Safety and Catastrophe Management Practice Group. I have almost 29 years of experience as a labor lawyer, but rely even more heavily on the experience I gained in working in my family's various businesses, and through dealing with practical client issues. Employers tell me that they seldom meet an attorney who delivers on his promise to provide practical guidance and to be a business partner. As a result, some executives probably use different terms than “practical” to describe my fellow travelers in the profession. I don't enjoy the luxury of being impractical because I spend much of my time on shop floors and construction sites dealing with safety, union and related issues which are driven by real world processes and the need to protect and get the most out of one's most important business assets ... its employees. That's one of the reasons that I view safety compliance as a way to also manage problem employees, reduce litigation and develop the type of work environment that makes unions unnecessary. Starting out dealing with union-management challenges and a stint in the NLRB have better equipped me to see the interrelationship of legal and workplace factors. I am proud also of my experience at Fisher & Phillips, where providing “practical advice” is second only to legal excellence among the Firm’s values. Our website lists me as having provided counsel for over 225 occasions of union activity, guided unionized companies, and as having managed approximately 450 OSHA fatality cases in construction and general industry, ranging from dust explosions to building collapses, in virtually every state. I have coordinated complex inspections involving multi-employer sites, corporate-wide compliance, and issues involving criminal referral. As a full labor lawyer, I oversee audits of corporate labor, HR, and safety compliance. I have responded to virtually every type of day-to-day workplace inquiry, and have handled cases before the EEOC, OFCCP, NLRB, and numerous other state and federal agencies. At F & P, all of us seek to spot issues and then rely upon attorneys in the Firm who concentrate on those areas. No tunnel vision. I teach or speak around 50 times per year to business associations, bar and professional groups, and to individual businesses. I serve on safety committees at three states’ AGC Chapters, teach at the AGC ASMTC
This entry was posted in ADA, aging workforce, attitude/culture, discipline and discharge, discrimination, EEOC, employer policies, generational differences, harassment, managing legal matters, supervisor development, whistleblower/retaliation. Bookmark the permalink.

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