While there are many possible legal vulnerabilities, one area that emerges repeatedly is discrimination. Employers often experience problems with sexual harassment, race discrimination, and hostile work environments. Worse still, they actively aggravate the situation by retaliating against employees who report these situations, even when they do so within the rules.
When an employer receives a complaint from an employee alleging discrimination or a hostile work environment on the basis of race, sex, or any other statutorily protected status under RCW 49.60, the employer needs to handle the complaints very seriously. You must ensure that the employee bringing the harassment to your attention is adequately supported.
Employers need to recognize that when employees come to management with complaints about being the victim of harassment, separating them or changing their job description could backfire, causing the employee to feel alienated, as if they were being punished for having stood up for themselves. This could be interpreted as retaliation (even if it was not intended as such) and severely worsen the legal trouble the company is in.
Instead, you should work with the employee, take written notes, conduct a thorough, detailed, and impartial investigation into the allegations, and respond accordingly. You should certainly hire an attorney if you do not already have one.
There are two primary forms of alternative dispute resolution that businesses may be interested in pursuing as an alternative to litigation. The first is mediation. Mediation is a confidential negotiation process conducted with the assistance of a trained legal professional who serves as an impartial authority and can guide the parties in a dispute to a mutually acceptable resolution.
The mediation process is completely voluntary and often requires one or both sides to candidly evaluate and recognize where their arguments have strengths and weaknesses, as well as forecast the costs that could be avoided if the litigation threat is removed or if the litigation comes to an end.
The second form of alternative dispute resolution is called arbitration. Arbitration more closely resembles litigation in that both sides present their evidence and arguments to an independent third party hired to be an arbitrator of their dispute. The Arbitrator then issues a decision, which can be taken to court and turned into a judgment.
When an arbitration contract is formed, the parties agree to follow whatever dispute procedures they choose, so long as those procedures are fair to both sides of the agreement.
First, the parties will generally turn to a trained and mutually selected professional who specializes in the area of law governing their dispute. This can result in faster and more confident decisions instead of having to rely on judges who may be suffering from decision fatigue or who must be called on as generalists in many different fields of law instead of having a specialty.
Second, discovery procedures and the rules of evidence are generally more relaxed in arbitration, which means that sides can argue their case without first engaging in the months or years of evidence gathering required by formal trial procedures. As a result, arbitrations can generally be completed in the span of a few months, saving everyone considerable time and money.
Third, the parties have increased finality. Rights of appeal from an arbitration ruling are usually extremely limited, which can reduce the chances of disagreements becoming lengthy and onerous.
If you are not sure what legal remedy or solution is right for you and your dispute, speak to an attorney. They can help you reflect on the risks and benefits of litigation or any other legal procedure.
The decision to pursue litigation is, however, ultimately a business decision. Litigation always involves a degree of risk and uncertainty, a cost, and the prospect of a reward. Your attorney should be able to help you evaluate the costs and benefits after looking at:
Armed with such counsel, you will be able to make smarter legal and business decisions about litigation. As always, though, the cheapest and most effective way to deal with problems is by consulting with an experienced business law attorney before they arise.
For more information on Legal Business Disputes For WA Businesses, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (253) 400-2232 today.