Slideshare offers an interesting slideshow on the top 10 reasons employees sue their employers. They include:
1. An applicant believes he or she should have been hired.
2. An employee believes he or she was unfairly disciplined.
3. An employee believes he or she was harassed.
4. An employee believes he or she was subjected to discrimination.
5. An employee believes he or she was subjected to retaliation.
6. An employee believes he or she was not provided accommodation for disability.
7. An employee believes he or she was terminated due to illness or injury.
8. A former employee believes he or she was defamed following the separation of employment.
9. A union is attempting to organize the workplace.
10. A competitor believes the company has interfered with its business or stolen its employees.
The ninth reason stands out to me because it relates to a recent Politico article entitled, “A court just gutted your right to sue your boss.” According to the story, in December 2013, the United States Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled that to keep their jobs, employees must now agree to settle all workplace disputes individually.
The decision permits employers to require workers, as a condition of keeping their jobs, to agree to arbitrate all workplace disputes and to do so as individuals, standing alone against their employer. The ruling could spell the end of employment class actions that were instrumental to breaching the barriers of both race and sex discrimination after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and remain critical to enforcement of minimum wage and other labor standards laws.
The story explained how the ruling stemmed from a D.R. Horton case. The company is the largest residential house builder in the United States operating in 27 states with annual revenue of more than $6 billion, the article said. Horton required all employees to sign an agreement stating that employment disputes would be resolved by binding arbitration “and that the arbitrator ‘may hear only Employee’s individual claims.”’
As the story goes, one worker attempted to pursue a claim against the company that involved a group of workers, yet Horton insisted that each worker must file his or her own claim.
This new ruling is kind of scary to think about. What would happen if your state’s court system upheld such a notion? To say that if ever your organization discriminated against employees or just outright treated a group of workers wrong/harshly, all of you cannot ban together to make a claim against the company. You, as an individual, must go head-to-head with a business.
This ruling seems very unfair for employees, especially considering that most won’t have the backing, funds, and law expertise that a big time corporation would.
The ability to unite in numbers adds strength for a cause. A perfect example of this is Wal-Mart and its seemingly never-ending issues with its workers.
- The retailer has been sued by temporary workers saying stores “violated minimum wage and overtime laws” by “requiring temporary employees to show up early for work, stay late and work through lunch.”
- The chain also had a California judge certify a class of 10,000 employees who believed Wal-Mart broke the law when the retailer refused “to provide suitable seating for its cashiers who requested it.”
- And Wal-Mart was forced to compensate employees after more than 400 workers from 24 of 27 Wal-Mart stores in Oregon won a lawsuit, which accused the retailer of violating federal and state wage laws.
Imagine if each of these workers would’ve been forced to sue the world’s largest retailer on their own? How many would’ve received a fair chance against Wal-Mart?
Again, there is power in numbers. This is one of the main reasons why unions were created so that workers could unite to fight for their rights and protection—together.
I think the message the New Orleans Court sent via its decision can make it that much harder for workers (most often already hesitant to file claims against their companies) to stand up for their rights in the workplace. Employees deserve a fair shot at justice if they feel they’ve been wronged. And if the accusations involve more than one employee, I believe all should be free to continue to band together to defend themselves.
What do you think? Was this ruling fair for both employers and employees?