Magazine article Risk Management

Navigating the Employment Litigation Minefield

Magazine article Risk Management

Navigating the Employment Litigation Minefield

Article excerpt

An area of the law that was almost unheard of 20 years ago, employment-related litigation exploded during the 1980s. John Meyers, an attorney with the San Francisco firm Seyfarth, Shaw, Fairweather & Geraldson; Kathleen Sevier, senior P.I. specialist, Rollins Financial Brokers; and Louis Lubrano, senior vice president of the management/professional liability division of National Union Insurance Co. discussed What Do You Need to Know About Employment Practices to Avoid Liability? The keys to preventing employee litigation are making sure workers understand company policies and following the policies consistently.

Faced with courts increasingly willing to entertain workplace litigation and juries dominated by working-class members, companies are frequently sued by employees who are terminated, denied a promotion or receive a negative evaluation. "Employers' good faith business decisions are increasingly hard to defend in front of juries that decide cases in favor of who they like and what they think is fair," Mr. Meyers said.

The Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act and broader definitions of worker privacy and harassment also provide new challenges and risks for employers. To prevent these potential suits, risk managers must take an active role in monitoring the employment practices of their companies.

The most effective way to avoid employment litigation is to clearly spell out the company's performance and conduct standards. "If you train workers properly today, you can help avoid losses tomorrow," Ms. Sevier said. "Make sure your company's employee handbook accurately reflects your policies and that the information is current. …

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