As a small business owner, you have a variety of tasks you must complete each day. When trying to maximize profits, please customers and retain employees, you may eventually rub someone the wrong way. If you do, you should know about some workplace torts that may expose your organization to liability.
French for “unjustly and without reason,” a tort is merely some sort of damage or injury. While not all injuries offer a means for redress, certain ones that occur in the workplace may give your employees a foundation to file a lawsuit. Here are five common ones:
1. Wrongful employment discrimination
Federal, state and some local laws prohibit employers from engaging in certain types of employment discrimination. Typically, you may not discriminate against an employee or applicant based on age, sex, national origin, citizenship status and a few other characteristics.
2. Wrongful termination
Employers typically enjoy wide latitude in deciding whether to fire workers. Still, not all termination rationales are legitimate. If you fire a worker for a discriminatory reason or in retaliation for legally protected conduct, you may face a wrongful termination suit.
3. Wrongful demotion
Like with termination, you can usually make employment decisions about where your employees best fit within your organization. Nonetheless, you cannot use an illegal reason to demote your workers.
4. Wrongful failure to promote
You may choose not to promote an employee for a variety of reasons. If your rationale is due to someone’s membership in a protected class, though, you may be asking for trouble.
5. Wrongful employment-related defamation
Your employees are likely to have professional goals they want to achieve. If you become irritated with a worker and decide to spread misinformation to harm his or her reputation in the community, you may have to defend a defamation suit.
As you may suspect, each of these torts can be expensive to fight. Therefore, having policies and procedures in place to prevent their occurrence is likely a good idea. Still, if an employee alleges misconduct in the workplace, you must act diligently to protect your small business’s interests.