Why Litigation is Never a Win
Think of workplace litigation as a bitter, ugly, contested divorce — you know, the kind that involves lots of drama, years of hearings, depositions, stress and $250 an hour attorney’s fees. Ultimately you may get rid of the employee, or even escape with some sort of win, but in the end you still lose.
Most businesses don’t account for the hours of lost time and missed work because of depositions, hearings and coaching prep for trial when there’s a workplace lawsuit. There’s also the hits to the morale of the workplace and the distrust that makes employees take sides, particularly if the employee was popular with co-workers. And then, there’s the bottom line — what it costs the company in dollars and cents.
Face the facts. There are no winners in work related litigation. If you thought divorce was expensive, you haven’t seen what workplace litigation costs!
It’s much cheaper to obey the laws and work things out before incidents become lawsuits. You don’t have to take our word for it. Lawroom, an online company that provides legal information to its members, collected information throughout 2013 about the cost of lawsuits (win or lose) filed by employees. Win or lose, lawsuits are expensive!
Pay and Overtime Lawsuits
“Pay and Overtime” lawsuits were by far the most expensive lawsuits for employers in 2013. All your employee has to do is claim they were not paid enough and it is your burden to prove otherwise.
With an average cost per case of $895,000, losing one of these lawsuits is your own fault if you’re not keeping complete and accurate, signed timesheets.
Sexual Harassment Lawsuits
Employers still aren’t taking sexual harassment seriously. In 2013 employees won 70% of sexual harassment lawsuits. Even in the 30% of sexual harassment cases employers actually did manage to win last year, they still spent a median amount of $192,500 to prove their innocence.
Disability isn’t just about someone using a wheelchair. You may have an employee or even a potential employee who has PTSD, clinical depression, or is a cancer survivor. They may even be going through treatment for a medical condition. If you’re not current on what constitutes a disability, get current. Disabled employees won half of all disability discrimination cases in 2013. Even when employers won at trial, they still ended up spending a median amount of $77,500.
Retaliation is the grownup version of “Mom, he’s touching me.” It’s the “tit for tat” game employers engage in to punish a whistleblower or someone who objects to illegal actions or situations on the job.
So, if you’re thinking of job reassignment, like sending a whistleblowing employee to your own version of a Corporate Siberia because they spoke up, testified or blew the whistle, think again. That’s retaliation and it’s the most common of all the cases made by employees in 2013. The median amount spent to defend a retaliation/whistleblowing case is $250,248.
Retaliation claims can be viable even when the alleged discriminatory conduct in question isn’t unlawful harassment or discrimination. As long as the employee has a reasonable and good faith belief that he is complaining of illegal conduct, he is engaging in a protected activity.
Retaliation can also lead to other employees filing suits. It can escalate a manageable situation into an even larger lawsuit. Retaliation adds fuel and costs to the litigation fire. It’s not worth it.
Litigation is expensive whether you win or lose. Remember this the next time an employee comes to you with a concern and deal with it before it becomes a lawsuit.