As an employee, you have rights in the workplace, and if your employer violates those rights, you are entitled to legal action. There are a few steps to take to make sure your case is as strong as possible.
Talk to Your Employer
Your first step should always be to talk to your employer and give them the chance to rectify the problem. In some cases, the mistake could be an honest mistake or quickly rectified when the issue is raised. Most companies try to stay within the law and would be keen to avoid legal action. Follow these tips when presenting your concerns to your employer:
- Know your rights – Being fully aware of your rights will give you the confidence to present the problem and answer any questions your employer has. If the violation is a result of a misunderstanding or accident, you will be able to point out the mistake and advise on a solution.
- Present only the facts – Prepare a brief summary of the issue so you can stick to the facts when meeting with your employer. Brainstorm possible solutions to present if your employer asks for them. By preparing a summary, you will make sure you don’t leave out any facts or get anything wrong when talking to your employer. Use records to make sure that dates, events, and figures are correct.
- Leave emotions out of it – It can be incredibly stressful to deal with a workplace problem, but an emotional outburst will not help you. Be sure to keep your temper in check and avoid being derailed by arguing and accusations. This could mean you damage the relationship with your employer and don’t get a resolution to the issue.
- Be discreet – A discussion about issues in the workplace should always occur in private. You may be accused of creating a toxic workplace environment if you bring up a divisive workplace issue. Ask your employer for an appointment, so you discuss the issue in private. This way, you keep on the good side of your employer and avoid upsetting others.
- Agree on next steps – In the discussion, come to an agreement on the next steps. Whether that is the company investigating the issue, your boss talking to the supervisor or co-workers, or will a new policy be released for job responsibilities, reporting, or evaluations be drawn up.
- Follow up – Check back to see the progress on the agreed next steps. Schedule another meeting for a few weeks to discuss the progress and what else might need to be done.
Document the Problem
Make sure you have documentation of the issue as well as discussing with your employer. Gather supporting documents such as pay stubs, emails, company policies etc. Make sure these are documents that you are authorized to access, not confidential records. Also record key conversations and events including the time, date, and the names of people present. These people may be witnesses if the claim goes to court. If these events happen when you are going through legal proceedings, ask the witnesses to write down their account in signed and dated statements.
When Is a Lawsuit Appropriate?
While suing your employer is not easy, sometimes it is your only recourse. However, it can be complicated; there are a lot of things to consider before filing a lawsuit. Here are some of the things you should think about:
- When there is discrimination – It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against job applicants or employees on the basis of sex, gender, ethnicity, religion, or disability. If an employer discriminates against you based on the above protected classes, you can sue them.
- When there is harassment – If you have been harassed in the workplace and your employer doesn’t resolve the issue, then it is appropriate to sue. Your employer does not need to be the harasser; it could be a client, supervisor, or co-worker. A lawsuit can help change the workplace dynamics and get your employer to take harassment seriously.
- When you’ve been wrongfully terminated – If your employer let you go for unethical reasons, then this is wrongful termination. The most common wrongful termination reasons are retaliation or discrimination. Wrongful termination can be very difficult to prove, but if you have proof of the unethical reasons or proof against the employers given reasons, you can sue.
- Workplace injury – Workplace injuries don’t just happen in dangerous jobs; they can happen in office jobs. Most of the time, workplace injuries are covered by workers’ compensation. However, injuries such as defective products, third party negligence, toxic substances, or intentional accidents caused by the employer are not covered by workers’ compensation. If you are not covered by workers’ compensation, or it doesn’t cover your injuries, you can sue your employer.
Starting a Lawsuit Against Your Employer
There are some important steps to take to make filing a lawsuit against your employer go smoothly. Firstly, reach out to an attorney to understand if you have a case. At Nakase Accident Lawyer and Employment Attorneys, we offer free consultations because we believe everyone has the right to free legal advice. It is best to check the strength of your case before you sue your employer. If a lawyer lets you know early on that you don’t have a case, you can save time and energy collecting evidence. An attorney will also help you come up with a plan of action or things to avoid saying in a negotiation with your employer to resolve the issue.
The second step is to speak to your employer and see if you are able to come to a satisfactory resolution. Most employers will want to avoid lawsuits and public attention, so they will try and resolve the problem. Schedule a private meeting with your boss, supervisor, or HR to discuss the issue.
Throughout this whole process, document any evidence relevant to the situation. Having a strong file of evidence will help your case if it goes to court. Save emails and messages, take pictures, and make notes documenting illegal behavior. Speak to other employees who are also experiencing the issues or have witnessed the issue. Ask them if they are willing to speak to your lawyer about the issue.
Finally, if your employer does not come to a satisfactory solution, talk to your lawyer and decide whether you want to take legal action. Your employment attorney will help to gather evidence and file paperwork for the lawsuit.
Why You Should Consider Legal Action
If your employer does not take your complaint seriously or has retaliated against you, then consider taking legal action. Before making a decision, consider your motives, the evidence, and your willingness to spend the time and money necessary for legal action. Consider the following:
- What results do you want? An employment lawsuit is unlikely to be a multi-million dollar lawsuit. Most employment law claims do not go to court; your attorney will often negotiate a satisfactory settlement with your employer’s attorneys. If your motivation is emotional, it is not a good basis for a lawsuit and will often result in poor decisions on your part. If you are after a simple decision such as backpay for the date you should have been promoted or a letter of recommendation, it is best you negotiate with your employer.
- How strong is your case? Consider the strength of the evidence you have, as that will determine the likelihood of success for your case. To have a strong case, you must have documents proving that your rights were violated. If your case hinges on suspicions or feelings, it is a weak case. Consult with an employment lawyer to determine the strength of your case and whether you should proceed with legal action.
If you decide to take legal action, be sure to meet legal deadlines. In California, the statute of limitations is two years for employment law violations. You will only be able to claim for legal violations within that stwo-year window. Missing the legal deadline means that you can no longer pursue legal action on that case. This is why it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible on a case.
Brad Nakase, Attorney
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