Employers Start Defending Themselves Against Suits
June 7, 2000
Throughout the 1990s, the number of employees' civil rights lawsuits filed in U.S. district courts against employers soared. But now employers are beginning to fight back against litigation-minded employees.
In the past, companies usually entered the legal arena only after an unhappy employee filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, waited the requisite 180 days for the agency review and then filed a lawsuit. Now, an increasing number of employers are filing preemptive lawsuits aimed at scaring off potential plaintiffs.
- The number of such employees' suits jumped from fewer than 10,000 in 1992 to roughly 21,000 in 1998.
- A sign of new aggressiveness among employers is that some of them sue not only the complaining employee -- but the employee's lawyer.
- Legal experts advise employers to document the reason an employee was dismissed and ask the employee for a release to ensure that in exchange for certain benefits -- say a severance package -- the employee will not sue.
EEOC officials look askance at preemptive suits by employers and have brought charges of retaliation against two companies thus far.
Source: Sana Siwolop, "Recourse or Retribution?" New York Times, June 7, 2000.
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