Employment Litigation On The Rise

By Jason Cinq-Mars and Angie Palmerin
Employment attorneys were quite busy in 2008. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a total of 95,402 discrimination charges were filed by workers against their employers in 2008, as compared to 82,792 in 2007. That is a 15% increase. According to the new report, age discrimination complaints increased 29% from 2007, followed by retaliation complaints up 23% and sex discrimination complaints up 14%. The EEOC also saw an increase in complaints based on national origin discrimination, up 13% from 2007, race discrimination, up 11%, and disability discrimination, up 10%. With the economy in turmoil and a continuing rise in unemployment, it should be no surprise that employment litigation has dramatically increased.

The Odds
With the number of discrimination filings on the rise, employers must be aware of the risks they face if an employment case is filed against them. Statistics show that if an employer is sued by an employee in federal court, there is a 61% chance that the employer will lose. This number increases to 66% if the suit is filed in state court, where most employment discrimination cases are filed. The chances of an employer losing jumps to 65% if disability discrimination is alleged and to 70% if the suit alleges sex discrimination.

The Bottom Line
If an employer takes an employment case to trial and loses, the verdict can be quite large. Statistics show that in 2008, the average verdict in a federal employment suit was around $627,447. This number was higher in state court, where the average verdict was approximately $852,838. This number increases to approximately $948,018 for state discrimination cases, while state age discrimination verdicts top the list at an average of $1,967,923. There is a 27% chance of a verdict of $500,000 or more and a 45% chance of a verdict of $250,000 or more. In light of this dramatic increase in employment litigation and the high costs associated with lawsuits, the wise employer will be sure to provide effective management training on harassment and discrimination, hire competent human resources professionals and consult counsel before making high risk termination decisions.