Thursday, March 12, 2009

Economy Down – Lawsuits Up

Has your company laid off or fired anyone recently? Have you recently been sued for discrimination? According to numbers to be published by the EEOC, the odds are that if you haven’t been sued, you will be.

The EEOC has released its caseload numbers for fiscal year 2008, and the upswing in the number of claims from the prior year is dramatic. From the EEOC, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal:

Type of Discrimination 2007 EEOC Charges 2008 EEOC Charges Change from 2007 to 2008
Age 19,103 24,582 28.7%
Retaliation 26,663 32,690 22.6%
Sex 24,826 28,372 14.3%
Religion 2,880 3,273 13.6%
National Origin 9,396 10,601 12.8%
Race 30,510 33,937 11.2%
Disability 17,734 19,453 9.7%
Total 82,792 95,402 15.2%


In this economy, nearly every termination and lay-off should be considered high-risk. With little to lose, more and more employees are taking fliers on discrimination claims in hopes of scoring a settlement to help cushion the job loss blow.

Terminating or laying off an employee without getting employment counsel involved before the termination is asking for a lawsuit. Companies should be working with their attorneys to:

  1. Vet group layoffs and individual terminations to confirm that the decisions are lawful and non-discriminatory.

  2. Ensure that protected groups are not otherwise disproportionally represented in group layoffs.

  3. Hedge their liability risks be offering severance packages in exchange for releases signed by departing employees.

We attorneys cannot offer a magic pill to immunize against lawsuits. What we can offer is proactive counseling so that you are best positioned to defend yourself when the lawsuit comes.

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus.

For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or