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 a hostile working environment, using FMLA leave or reporting the corrupt actions of a co-worker or supervisor. Retaliation can also occur without firing an employee. A change in job position or a demotion for a worker following their complaint or other specific action could be viewed as retaliatory.

Because legal action could result in expensive consequences for a small business, it is important to recognize the differences between legitimate and retaliatory actions. It is also wise to exercise caution in such changes if there is the possibility that a reasonable employee might be dissuaded from filing discrimination complaints based on a pattern of such action.

In dealing with a difficult employee who complains frequently, a business owner might be concerned about legally addressing that behavior without taking an action that could lead to a lawsuit. It might be important to discuss potential implications with an employment law attorney. It may also be helpful to develop company policies that clearly define unacceptable practices that could result in termination or other negative consequences.

Source: USA Today, “Ask an Expert: Should I sue my employer?”, Steve Strauss, March 2, 2015

Minimum Standards of Care for Animals

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