If you’re a business owner or manager, you have to be aware that this is a litigious society and people often sue when they feel they’ve been wronged. This is no different when it comes to employees. In Canada, employees can sue while they still work for you, or after they’ve left.
Most claims turn out to be groundless but there are a lot of reasons an employee file a lawsuit, like for harassment, discrimination, wage and hour violations, worker’s compensation claims, and unsafe work conditions. Here are six major reasons employees will sue you when they are terminated or even while they still work for your company.
1. You fired the employee for bad performance when he or she has good performance reviews.
Similar to not giving a proper reason for firing the employee, if you want to fire someone, you better make sure there’s a paper trail of poor performance. Otherwise, a judge isn’t going to believe that you’ve fired the employee for poor performance if they have nothing but glowing performance reviews leading up to the termination.
2. You didn’t give a reason for firing.
Most employees think they are great workers, and if they’re fired for no known reason, they’ll make up their own reason and file a lawsuit; or their lawyer will. You need to be very clear on the reason for the termination, and it better be a legitimate reason, too.
3. Your company is regulated by the federal government and you failed to comply with the Employment Equity Act, or you’ve been accused of a human rights violation.
If you’re contacted regarding a human rights violation, you need to respond courteously and promptly. If you’re tardy about the response or mistreat the employee afterwards, you’ll definitely hear about it in the courtroom.
4. You delayed internal investigations.
When an employee files a complaint, they must be investigated promptly. If, for some reason, it’s impossible to do so, you need to advise the employee who complained why and when the investigation will begin. Otherwise, you can be accused of delaying or failing to investigate a complaint.
5. You didn’t follow your own policies.
You might have the best training and policies in the industry, but if you don’t ensure your supervisors follow those policies and provide the training, you can’t use it as an excuse in court.
6. You chose a bad time to fire the employee.
If an employee just finished filing an internal complaint about a co-worker or supervisor, now probably isn’t the time to discipline that employee over a supposedly unrelated event. Any good employment lawyer will be able to connect the dots between the complaint and the firing. If you must discipline an employee this close to a complaint, you better have great documentation that will stand up in court about the reasons for the disciplinary action before you take steps.
For the best results, make sure your human resources and legal teams are given the proper training for management and proper protection. Sometimes issues arise just because management didn’t follow proper procedure, leaving the company open to a lawsuit. Being prepared can’t stop your employees from suing you, but it can reduce the costs and time you will spend defending yourself against lawsuits from current or former employees.