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Employee lawsuits spurred by broad worker protection laws

Entrepreneurs in Maryland often worry about being sued by customers or members of the public, but an October 2015 report from a leading specialty insurance provider indicates that they should also be concerned about lawsuits filed by their employees. The study, which was prepared by Hiscox, found that small and medium sized companies had about a 12 percent chance of facing such a lawsuit in 2014, and the likelihood was even higher for businesses in states with employee protections that go beyond those provided by federal law. The study reveals that companies located in the 10 states with comprehensive fair employment or anti-discrimination regulations were sued far more often by their employees. New Mexico topped the list of states for employee lawsuits with businesses in the state facing such litigation at a rate 66 percent higher than the national average. Laws requiring employers to screen all job applicants for work…

Workers prioritize jobs over filing sexual harassment suits

Despite discrimination laws prohibiting workplace sexual harassment, it remains a widespread problem in Maryland and across the country. The employment and education vice president at the National Women's Law Center testified in January to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that a majority of such cases are never reported because the victims are more worried about possible retaliation or losing their jobs if they file complaints. One out of every four female workers is a sexual harassment victim, and the problem is pervasive in a range of jobs, o ften within male-dominated industries. One workplace discrimination attorney says that many employees are afraid of reprisal if they complain, such as whether they could find another job, particularly if their jobs are in certain industries. Another employment attorney notes that the best sexual harassment cases are those with enough evidence, facts and histories of previous harassment, and the companies and victims often…

Dealing with workplace harassment and discrimination

Maryland employers that are designing policies around harassment and discrimination may wish to inform employees about the best way to report such behavior. For example, employees should know that it is crucial to document any harassment or discrimination in as much detail as possible. This may include gathering material such as emails and voicemail. Individuals should be encouraged to turn over all the evidence they have despite discomfort about bringing witnesses into the case. Although gathering evidence to back the claims is important, individuals should not delay reporting the harassment. Doing so might appear to minimize the incidents. Furthermore, witnesses may leave the company and records may disappear as email is deleted off the server. While it is necessary to report the harassment in a timely manner, individuals should understand an investigation may take time. Furthermore, individuals should not get too attached to the idea of one particular outcome, such…

Lawsuits to address employment discrimination

Maryland business owners may find that firing an employee is necessary at times, but it is important to understand that the context of a situation could leave room for legal action in certain cases. Similarly, it is important to consider any changes in position or treatment when dealing with an employee who has made a complaint about adverse actions or conditions. As an owner of a business considers these issues, it is important to ensure that company policies are communicated to and enforced by supervisors, managers and other leaders. A retaliatory firing could in some cases lead to a wrongful discharge lawsuit. Although it may be necessary to fire an employee for failing to do their job or for other policy violations, it is not legal to fire an individual who is engaged in protected conduct in a retaliatory manner. Examples might include firing someone for registering a complaint about…

The options that employees have when their rights are violated

There are several laws in place to protect the civil rights of employees. For example, workers cannot be overlooked for promotion because of their gender, race or religion. When the protected rights of Maryland workers are violated, they have a few options to initiate an employment dispute. One of these options is informal negotiations between the employee and employer, rather than going through a court battle. The optimum result is that the employer consents to compensate the worker, while the employee consents to dismiss the right to take legal action. However, this is not always the result. When informal negotiations do not work in an employment dispute, the worker has the option to submit a complaint to the state or federal government. This allows the government to launch an investigation into the violation of the employee's civil rights. Depending on what the investigation uncovers, the government could take further legal…

UFC faces antitrust lawsuits

Residents of Maryland who enjoy mixed martial arts may be interested to learn that the Ultimate Fighting Championship, a major organization that specializes in the sport, was targeted with three separate antitrust lawsuits in December. The actions were filed against UFC on Dec. 16, Dec. 22 and Dec. 24 by a total of seven individual plaintiffs who claim the organization illegally hampered competition. Some of the plaintiffs are MMA fighters or participated in the sport in the past. Commentators say the UFC hired a New York-based law firm to fight back against the allegations; this firm has participated in a number of high-profile antitrust cases, including Bush vs. Gore, United States vs. Microsoft and a dispute between the NFL Players Association and the NFL. According to a representative, the UFC simply served the needs of consumers and sports fans as it created its business, and the organization believes its current…

Enforcement of the ADA in Maryland

Employers in Maryland are required by federal law to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The law allows employers to offer reasonable accommodations to employees who have a disability. Providing reasonable accommodations protects employers against employment litigation while also maintaining the civil rights of anyone with a disability. The law does provide exceptions for undue hardships regarding an employer's legal obligations to provide accommodations. Under the federal employment law, a reasonable accommodation may include a change in the physical work environment or in the way that the workplace usually does things in order for an applicant or employee to function in the workplace. The three levels of reasonable accommodation include modifications to the job application process, modifications to the work environment and provision of equal benefits and privileges as employees without disabilities. Examples of what a reasonable accommodation could include are modification of work schedules and enhancing facilities access,…

Maryland employers need to know employee screening laws

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 69 percent of all employers conduct a criminal background check on prospective employees. While the vast majority of background checks are not conducted until a job offer is made, 4 percent of background checks are conducted as soon as an application is received. Although such background checks are intended as due diligence, employers are restricted regarding the type of information they review. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says that employers should consider the nature of an offense, how long ago it occurred and the type of job being applied before determining if a background check is legal and relevant. Additionally, the EEOC says that background checks should not be conducted until a job offer is made as they may inadvertently disqualify minorities at a higher rate if they are done before making a formal job offer. There are 12 states that currently…

Apple sued for alleged meal and break violations

Maryland residents may be interested to learn about a class-action lawsuit that has been filed against Apple. The lawsuit was filed in California and alleges that the company committed several California Labor Code violations. The complaints listed in the suit include failures to provide timely meal and rest breaks to employees as well as a late payment of a final paycheck. The employment dispute originally began when four retail and corporate Apple employees filed a lawsuit in December 2011. On July 21, 2014, the lawsuit gained class-action status and now encompasses an estimated 20,000 plaintiffs. Although the court documents list an estimate of 18,000 current and former Apple employees, the class size reportedly grew as a result of employee turnover that has taken place. A lawyer who is representing the plaintiffs offered a statement describing the case. He said that there had been lengthy oral arguments and a high volume…