Hard times lead to desperate measures. As people have lost their jobs and been unable to find another they often seek alternative ways to get some income and they turn to suing their ex-employers. The figures show that EEOC lawsuits are on the rise. Ten years ago in 2000 there were 79,896 discrimination charges files. Last year in 2010 there were 99,922 discrimination charges files. Over 20,000 more discrimination charges. According to attorney Chad Schultz of Ford & Harrison, LLP he does not believe this increase is due to more discrimination occuring in the workplace. I believe the increase is due to people sitting at home and seeing the ads from plaintiff attorneys encouraging them to sue their employers. The cases are taken on a contingency basis so it does not cost them anything to start the activity.
One of the fastest areas of growth in EEOC lawsuits is not in actual discrimination but in retaliation for having claimed discrimination. My friend Joe Chancey, an attorney and partner with Drew Eckl & Farnham LLP, was quoted in the Atlanta Business Chronicle saying that retaliation claims have increased because they can be easier to prove than discrimination cases. “For instance, an employee complained they were being discriminated against or harassed and then within some short amount of time, they faced a negative consequence like termination. There is a presumption that B happened because of A. Then the burden of proof shifs to the employer.”
This rise in claims, especially retaliation claims, makes it imperative that companies have good documentation procedures in place. As someone told me one time good documentation beats 10,000 words of testamony. It also emphasizes the value of good HR. Never terminate someone without first investigating. Make sure no retaliation is occuring. It also emphasizes the need for good superisory and managerial training.
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