Employee Lawsuits Mount in 2003

March 3, 2004 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Employee lawsuits, charges of discrimination and incidents of sexual harassment are all on the rise in the nation's offices.

More than half (57%) of the 456 human resources executives surveyed said they were sued by an employee during the past year, up 8% from 2002’s numbers.   This figure also represents a sudden spike in a trend that had been on a steady decline since a peak in 1995, when 62% said they were sued by an employee, according to 2003’s State of Workplace reading by employment law firm Jackson Lewis.

One reason for the swell is the dramatic increase in racial discrimination charges.   In 2003, 54% of those who were sued said race discrimination was the most frequent charge. This statistic has almost doubled since 2000, when 28% of those participating in a similar survey said they were sued for race discrimination.

Trying to curb instances of discrimination and foster a sense of community among worker, more companies are conducting diversity programs. In 2003, 41% of those surveyed said they have a diversity program at their company, up from 37% in 2002 and 33% in 2000.

Other frequent charges in 2003 were gender discrimination, levied on 48% of companies that were sued, age discrimination (46%) and discrimination due to a disability (37%).

Incidents of sexual harassment increased slightly. In 2003, 63% of the survey respondents said they handled a complaint of sexual harassment at their company, up 6% from 2002. However, this is still a significant drop from 1995 when virtually all survey respondents (95%) said they dealt with a sexual harassment issue.

In 2003, 44% of those polled said the number of sexual harassment complaints remained relatively the same as the previous year, and 11% said the number of complaints actually decreased during the same time period.