Employment law claims can be complex. While some cases are relatively straightforward, many are nuanced. As a result, attorneys must often argue that an employee has been harmed in numerous ways, legally speaking. Even if a worker is suing due to a single act, that one act may be associated with numerous legal terms and theories. For example, if a worker is demoted due to speaking out against a racist comment, an attorney may opt to argue that the worker suffered discrimination, retaliation and that his or her workplace has become a hostile work environment.
Sometimes, one or more arguments advanced by an attorney on behalf of his or her clients does not succeed, but one or more other arguments are favorably considered by a judge or jury. In this way, a worker may be able to hold his or her employer accountable for unacceptable behavior under one legal theory, even if other legal theories initially presented do not work out in the worker’s favor.
An example of this phenomenon recently occurred in a case involving female workers employed at a surgical center. When a surgeon hired his girlfriend to run the surgical center’s front office, she put unpopular policies into effect. Five female workers were terminated after they objected to these policies. Although a federal court did not accept their claims of discrimination, it did allow the case to advance on grounds of retaliation. This case illustrates that even when one legal argument does not pan out, another just might.
Source: Outpatient Surgery, “Employees’ Discrimination Lawsuit Alleges Hostile Workplace,” Dec. 11, 2014