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Employee's rights: Corporations try to squash class actions

Louisiana employees who have experienced discrimination in the workplace know how painful, frustrating and ultimately demeaning such behavior can be. Whether it happens as an isolated incident or to a group of employees, workplace discrimination has no place at work. It is important for Louisiana workers to remember their employee rights.

Recently, both Amgen Inc. and Comcast Corp. are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to place further limitations on class actions following the Wal-Mart discrimination case last year, which in a landmark decision restricted group lawsuits. The court in the Wal-Mart case rejected certification of a class action lawsuit brought by over 1.5 million female employees who alleged discrimination in promotions and in pay. The court did not allow the women to sue as a class action, stating that the women were unable to cite a corporate policy that would outline the discrimination.

Individuals who wish to sue a large corporation or company commonly attempt to band together with other similar plaintiffs and sue as a class, in order to keep individual costs low. The Wal-Mart case effectively made it more difficult, though not impossible, for a group to have a class action case certified. Comcast and other companies are attempting to follow suit in the Wal-Mart case.

As the Wal-Mart case illustrated, a class action can form due to discrimination in the workplace. Federal laws prohibit discrimination in the workplace on account of color, race, gender, national origin, disability, citizenship, religion, pregnancy or age. While the Wal-Mart class action was ultimately unsuccessful, workers should know that employers cannot retaliate against or fire a worker for complaining about discrimination.

Whether employment discrimination is based on race, religion or gender, it can take place in many forms. Discriminatory job standards, lack of promotions or unequal pay are just a few of the ugly results of discriminatory workplace behavior. Workers should feel supported by both federal and state laws which prohibit such discrimination in the workplace.

It is important for employees to examine company policies and understand the legal options available to them. Discrimination can be an ugly and very painful thing, and it has no place at work.

Source: Bloomberg News, "Comcast Follows Wal-Mart in High Court Lawsuit Attack," Margaret Cronin, Nov. 5, 2012

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