Deciding to sue your employer is never easy, but there are times when it becomes necessary. If you have experienced a workplace injury, wrongful termination, discrimination, or harassment in the workplace, taking legal action is sometimes the only recourse available to you.
However, filing a claim against your employer can quickly become complicated and contentious. Before you start filing any paperwork, it is important to evaluate your expectations of the outcome and weigh the necessary commitments a lawsuit will require from you. Below is guidance on the appropriate situations in which you may want to take legal action against your employer and other factors you should consider before suing your employer.
Employment Situations That May Lead to Legal Action
Employment-related legal actions may only be pursued for the most egregious actions within the workplace. This means that not every unfavorable outcome in the workplace or angering situation will lead to an actionable claim against your employer. Below are examples of workplace incidents for which it is appropriate to take legal action against your employer and for which you may be eligible for compensation:
- You have been discriminated against. Under federal law, including the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, an employer cannot discriminate against any employee based on a number of protected classes, including disability, religion, ethnicity, sex, gender, and race. If you believe you have been discriminated against based on one of the protected classes, legal action against your employer may be appropriate.
- You have been the victim of sexual harassment. Workplace sexual harassment need not necessarily be instigated by your employer for you to have an actionable claim. For example, if your supervisor or coworker harasses you and your employer fails to address the issue after being informed about it, your employer may still be liable.
- You have been wrongly terminated. Wrongful termination occurs when you are fired from your job for reasons that are not related to the company’s condition or its performance. Wrongful termination is difficult to prove, given that many states rely on employment-at-will provisions, but there are certain circumstances when this is a viable cause of action.
- You have suffered a workplace injury. If your workplace injury occurred due to defective machinery, toxic substances, third-party negligence, or your employer’s intentional acts, you may be able to sue your employer for appropriate compensation.
Complications of Suing Your Employer
As mentioned before, seeking legal recourse from your employer is not easy, pursuing the claim can become complicated. Below are suggestions to keep in mind when preparing for legal battle against your employer:
- Understand the impact of third-party involvement. If a third party’s negligence caused your workplace injuries, your employer may be absolved of their responsibilities to you. For instance, a construction site might have subcontractors specializing in flooring and drywall. If those subcontractors caused your injury, your case against your employer may be harder to prove
- Recognize employer neglect. There are various programs designed by the U.S. Department of Labor to prevent work-related accidents, injuries, and illnesses. It is your employer’s responsibility to ensure that all machines and tools are in a safe condition, the workplace is free of unreasonable hazards, and that precautions have been taken to prevent any foreseeable workplace injury. If your employer has not followed any of these requirements, your employer may be held legally responsible for their negligence.
- Know about workers’ compensation insurance policy status. Your employer is required by law to have a workers’ compensation insurance policy, but you can sue the company even when such a policy does not exist. Employers that do not have a workers’ compensation policy tend to deny emergency care to injured employees.
- Be mindful of employer retaliation following a workers’ compensation claim. Your employer is prohibited by law to retaliate against you for bringing a workers’ compensation claim against them. You have the right to hold your employer accountable in a civil court if you are terminated shortly after filing the claim. Retaliation cases are often difficult to prove, but a qualified lawyer can help you determine whether you have a viable claim.
The final piece of advice that you need to keep in mind when considering whether to take legal action against your employer is that you should never pursue the battle alone. While you might believe that you have a powerful case and that you do not need legal assistance, your employer can quickly turn the tables on you, putting you in a compromised situation without competent legal help. Your employer is not going to skimp on legal counsel, and neither should you. An experienced employment lawyer can help best position you for success in your claim.