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Small businesses are seeing a rise in discrimination claims

A new report from the business insurer Hiscox may be making small business owners (and their own insurers) all over California a little nervous.

According to data mined from national and state agencies alike, California is the third-most risky state in terms of the risk of employment lawsuits for both small and medium companies. On average, the odds that a business of that size will face a discrimination claim or another employment action is 46%. The national average for those kinds of claims, by comparison, is only 10%.

You can bet that the insurance companies that service those businesses aren't happy. For the most part, they tend to place the blame on legislative measures that have put increased pressure on companies of all sizes. They also blame "the increasing tendency of employees to turn to the courts for retribution" for all of the increases in claims.

However, the real momentum behind the rise in employment actions may actually come from a sea change in the social attitudes toward workplace discrimination and abuses of all kinds -- especially among the younger generations of employees. They no longer feel like they have to "play nice" with companies that treat them unfairly.

In other words, why shouldn't an aggrieved worker turn to the courts for redress? What good does it serve an employee to quietly submit to illegal, discriminatory practices by their employer?

Insurance companies and employers are right to be nervous -- but it isn't because employees have suddenly become litigious. Instead, those employees are simply better educated about their rights and more willing to take legal action to enforce them.

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