The number of lawsuits filed by employees against their employers for discrimination, ADA violations, and unfair labor practices is on the rise, and U.S. retail industry companies saw their fair share of employee legal actions in August. Chrysler, Disney (DIS), Wal-Mart (WMT), Burger King (BKW), Dollar Tree (DLTR) and Hallmark are among the latest retail companies having to defend themselves against employees who claim wrongdoing this month and U.S. courts are continually defining the boundaries of employee rights and employer responsibilities in the lawsuits that aren't arbitrated or settled.
Just this week Chrysler was ordered to pay an employee at its Belvidere, Illinois Assembly Plant $3.5 million in punitive damages as the result of a racial discrimination lawsuit. The seventh circuit court of appeals ruled in favor of the 20-year Chrysler employee as compensation for the behaviors of his Chrysler co-workers who used racial slurs, issued death threats, and painted graffiti on the plant walls to harass him. Chrysler was held responsible for the behaviors because leaders at the plant did not "promptly and adequately" respond to the harassment.
The number of complaints filed by the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) on behalf of employees who claimed they were the victim of some type of discrimination rose 7% between 2009 and 2011. That amounted to 99,947 lawsuits in 2011 and more than $404 million awarded to employees as the result of some kind of discrimination case in 2010.
The number of employee lawsuits based on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has also been on the rise, with a 90% increase in the past five years, according to research by Syracuse University. In April, 2012, there was a 21% month-over-month increase in ADA cases filed in federal court.
Besides discrimination cases, employees are also suing their employees for unpaid wages in record numbers. In the first seven months of 2012, there were 7,064 lawsuits filed under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), compared to 7.006 filed for the entire year of 2011. In fiscal year 2011, approximately 275,000 employees were awarded $223 million in unpaid wages. FLSA lawsuits have increased 35% in the past three years, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
There are many theories to explain this increasing number of employee lawsuits... read more...