Employment discrimination, sexual harassment, retaliation and wrongful termination aren’t solely the problem of large corporations. It’s true that the federal discrimination lawsuits against Fortune 500 companies tend to make splashier headlines, especially when they conclude in multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements. But small businesses can be just as susceptible to these issues.
Many small business owners are unprepared when these lawsuits are filed. The fact is that the bulk of litigation filed against businesses of all sizes involves employment disputes. About 40 percent of those are filed against smaller employers, with somewhere between 15 and 100 employees.
Employment lawsuits can more deeply affect a smaller employer, so it’s important for them not only to be insured, but also to be proactive in preventing disputes in the first place. That means knowing the law (including all the new employment laws that were passed in California recently), being sure there are clear policies and procedures in place to address problems and making certain those avenues for resolution are communicated to staff and supervisors.
Employees who have been discriminated against – no matter what size their employer – should consult with an experienced Los Angeles employment attorney.
Most Common California Employment Discrimination Claims
The most common types of employment discrimination and wrongful termination lawsuits filed against small businesses are:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (protects against discrimination on the basis of gender, race, color, national origin and religion).
- Pregnancy discrimination (both as outlined in the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 and state Gov. Code, § 12945; Cal. Code Regs., tit. 2, § 11035).
- Age discrimination of workers over 40 (as prohibited by the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act).
What Small Business Owners Can Do to Eliminate Workplace Discrimination
Often, accusations of employment discrimination are the result of mishandling and mismanagement as it applies to labor laws. Small business owners don’t always get that their practices can contribute to discrimination – especially when that’s not the intent. But that doesn’t mean they can’t still be held liable for it. That’s why all business owners need to take these issues seriously.
Some actions that can be taken to reduce workplace discrimination:
- Define expectations. If a worker is going to be terminated, it should not be a surprise. While employers aren’t necessarily obligated to document the progression of disciplinary measures, failure to do so is going to help the employee’s case. It will be easier to show the termination was motivated by discriminatory reasons if up to that point the worker has received nothing in writing but positive reviews and feedback.
- Don’t be quick to terminate. Firing someone may be inevitable, but in most cases, it should be the last resort.
- Follow the letter of the law. Legal compliance does not happen by chance. You aren’t necessarily expected to know the intricacies of every California employment law, but investing in legal consultation with an employment lawyer can be invaluable.
- Consider liability insurance. Although deductibles and premiums are not cheap, neither is defending a lawsuit – or paying a verdict/settlement. Business owners would be wise to conduct a cost-benefit analysis to determine their insurance options.
Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 949-375-4734.
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