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When Should You Seek Legal Action Against Your Employer?

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For many employees, their relationships with their employer will never be cause for concern or an issue, however, some employees may have reason to pursue legal action. If your employer has stopped you from exercising your legal rights or their conduct towards you has been wrongful then you may need to consider taking legal action. Employees in most countries have significant rights and legal protection against unfair treatment, and this gives you good grounding when making a claim. But when should you seek legal action against your employer?

Discrimination is one of the most common reasons that employees take out legal action against their employer. Discrimination is when your employer treats you unfairly or differently because of personal characteristics or who you are as a person.

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Taking legal action is a serious step, and before you decide to take legal action against your employer it’s best to sit down and have a level headed conversation with them first to see if you can come to an agreement. Many workplace grievances can be solved through communication and this could avoid a misunderstanding being turned into something more serious. When sitting down with your employer here are a few things to try and remember: 

  • Know your rights – do some research on the issue you are raising so that you can point out any wrongdoing against you. Knowing your rights gives you the power to argue your case and shows your employer that you know what you are talking about and mean to take this seriously. 
  • Be discreet – all workplace issues should be discussed in private to avoid affecting the atmosphere of the rest of the workplace. Ask for a private meeting and conduct the conversation in a professional, private setting, not the hallway, local cafe, or in the elevator. 
  • Have a plan – before you go into your meeting write a brief plan of the conversation you want to have, write down any key points you want to make to ensure you don’t miss out on any important information. Don’t be afraid to take your plan into the meeting with you and also present any evidence you may have that supports your claim, such as any emails or proof of wrongdoing. 
  • Try to stay level headed – workplace issues can be emotional but try to leave your emotions at the door in order to have a civilised conversation. You may be angry or upset but this won’t help you get what you want. Stay composed even if your employer doesn’t. 
  • Follow up – once you have had your meeting follow up with your employer in writing and document any important notes. If you left the meeting with next steps then be sure to check in on any actions they have promised you as failure to do so could be grounds for filing a lawsuit. 

If you have spoken with your employer and the issue cannot be resolved or talking with your employer isn’t an option at all, then it may be time to peruse legal action. There are many reasons why you may wish to take legal action out against your employer, but the most common are outlined below. 

wrongful termination

Unfair or unlawful dismissal

Dismissal is when your employer ends your employment. It is not illegal for an employer to fire an employee but is unlawful if they do it without good reason or without following the proper protocol. Being dismissed for the following would be seen as an example of unfair or unlawful dismissal:

  • Joining a trade union 
  • Taking part in industrial action that lasted 12 weeks or less
  • Needing time off for jury service
  • Being on paternity or maternity leave when you were dismissed
  • Being denied a break
  • Exposing wrongdoing in your workplace 

Discrimination

Discrimination is one of the most common reasons that employees take out legal action against their employer. Discrimination is when your employer treats you unfairly or differently because of personal characteristics or who you are as a person. In the UK, The Equality Act 2010 highlights 9 protected characteristics, these are:

  1. Age
  2. Gender
  3. Race
  4. Disability
  5. Religion
  6. Pregnancy and maternity
  7. Sexual orientation
  8. Gender reassignment
  9. Marriage and civil partnership

These characteristics are protected at every phase of employment, including at the recruitment stage which means if you feel you were discriminated against because of one of these characteristics whilst at an interview then you may have reason to seek legal action against the company, even if they are not your employer. 

There are a few instances where you may be denied employment for one of the 9 protected reasons and it is not a case of discrimination. Such as if you were applying for a role which required significant physical tests this would put older candidates at a disadvantage. 

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Harassment

Harassment in the workplace can be of a sexual nature, such as touching or inappropriate comments but can also include workplace violence and bullying. Taking legal action against harassment is important to not only stop the current harassment from continuing but for preventing future occurrences of harassment against others. Your employer is required by law to investigate harassment claims and their failure to do so is also grounds to pursue legal action against them. 

Workplace injury

As an employee, you have the right to a safe working environment and it’s your employer’s responsibility to put measures in place to keep you safe while on the job. If you’ve been injured while at work then you could be owed compensation and it’s worth researching workers’ compensation lawyers who can ensure you get the compensation owed to you for the severity of your claim. Most employers take out Employee Liability and Employee Compensation Insurance to cover any injury claims and most workplace injury lawsuits stem around challenges to the amount of compensation awarded or suing the employer for gross negligence should they fail to provide the basic measures to keep you safe. Some examples of workplace injuries you can claim for include: 

  • Slipping or falling due to inadequate signage 
  • Defective equipment or dangerous equipment 
  • Your employer not adhering to Health and Safety regulations
  • Insufficient training or lack of training
  • An assault at work 
  • Exposure to toxic substances
  • Industrial injuries such as operating excessive vibration machinery 
  • Dangerous practices or procedures

As an employee, it is your right to work in a safe and non-discriminatory environment. If you feel you have been affected by any of the above issues then speak to your employer and consider looking into legal action against them if you cannot resolve your disagreement.

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