Monthly Archives: June 2009

Article About Biblical Illiteracy

There are a lot of articles claiming the public is scientifically illiterate, but this article is the first I’ve seen making assertions about biblical illiteracy. (I am pretty bible-illiterate, I must confess, and I do not post this to judge anyone).

As a general matter, I believe that most of us don’t know much about most of the issues we talk about.  How could we?  There’s hardly enough time for someone to become an expert in one area of knowledge, much less for all the issues that affect us and that merit discussion.  Whenever we start feeling righteous about something we think we know well (whether the topic involve religion, politics, law, etc. etc.), it’s probably good that we remind ourselves there is so very much we don’t know.

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WI Employee Discrimination Complainants and Go-With-Your-Gut Settlement Offers

Of those workers in Wisconsin who file discrimination complaints without an attorney, most have no idea how much a fair settlement value would be for their case.  And how should they?  For nearly every employee complainant, this is their first legal complaint, and they have no familiarity with the legal process, with what sorts of awards can be won, or with what typical settlement ranges are.

So I can’t blame any employee for not knowing what their case could be “worth”- that’s a very difficult thing for a non-attorney to get experience with or solid information about.

However, an employee who does not have an idea of his or her case’s value will often make mistakes that cause their case not to be settled, and litigation to be prolonged (and the case possibly lost).

In my experience, employees who do not have an accurate idea of what their case is worth will tend to highly overassess the worth.  This overassessment is not usually based on the law, but rather based on the employees’ “gut” feeling of how much the employer should pay, based on how unfair the employer’s conduct was.

It is not uncommon for an employee complainant to assume that his case could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, or several years’ worth of severance pay, when in fact his specific case has legal and practical limitations that make his case worth far, far less than what he thinks.   (Now, there are a few employment discrimination cases out there that are in fact worth hundreds of dollars in damages, but those are the vast minority of cases).

Often, as a result, employees who have these wrong assumptions will: (1) make settlement offers that are way too high, often higher than legal damages/award maximums;  (2) cause the employer to feel the employee is completely unreasonable, and stop engaging in any further settlement talks.

You don’t want to block yourself out of a reasonable settlement offer because you are asking for the moon and don’t know it.

On the other hand (although less common), some employees will significantly underassess the value of their case.  For example, an employee may focus on the value of a discrimination claim and not know that she in fact has a potential claim for unpaid overtime wages that has strongly supportive evidence and is worth far more in damages/monies than the discrimination claim being pursued.

This is where attorneys can help.  Employment law attorneys who have worked on and evaluated many discrimination claims can provide a thorough legal analysis of what your specific case may be worth, and whether your analysis may be missing any important factors.  The attorney’s assessed value may be much lower than what you want to hear- or maybe higher, to your pleasant surprise- but either way, it’s best to get all surprises removed from the equation as early as possible.

Here is a post that discusses “Things to Consider Before Filing a Discrimination Complaint at the Wisconsin ERD or EEOC,” including information about valuing an employee’s Wisconsin discrimination case.  That post, and this one, are for general information only.  Again, if you want a specific evaluation of your own discrimination case’s value, you should consult with an employment attorney to get a complete assessment.

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Filed under Employee Tip - Considering a Legal Action, Employee Tip - Severance & Settlement

Progessive on Progessives’ Hate Talk

When will those who are “liberals” and “progressives” (which includes me) realize that we are just as responsible as “conservatives” for the epidemic of negative and hateful communication inflicting public discourse nowadays?

Conservatives—particularly extreme-side-of-the-party folks like Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich— are often criticized by progressive folks for communicating in a hateful way.

I agree any negative or hateful communications by Limbaugh and Gingrich should be open to criticism. But what is more disconcerting to me are those progressives who do not recognize when similarly negative or hateful tones inflict our own demeanor (as they easily and instinctively can) when we encounter people holding beliefs (like extreme-end-political beliefs) with which we disagree.

I should mention that I have my own body of unfortunate literature—dating back to my grade school days—where I have written things that were very negative and disparaging toward others with whom I disagreed.   Heck, this post probably goes too far.  So I am not putting myself on the high horse here by any means. Rather, I’m asking others to consider joining me on the big bus called work-in-progress.

It is one thing for a progressive to politely—and strongly— dispute an opposing viewpoint or policy, especially if it is important, empirically incorrect, or both. But it is quite another thing to needlessly make the disagreement personal, and question the other person’s motives or character.

And it is another thing still to completely avoid self-reflection on our own communication style, as if the fact that we are right on the merits (we think) provides a ticket to not only describe the merits, but to further elaborate in a righteous, condescending and/or hypocritical tone about why our opponent is deserving of condemnation, name-calling, and in some cases, violence.

Consider these excerpts of progressive authors’ communications, which are all from today’s (6-11-09) Huffington Post, a progressive blog:

(from a blog header by a progressive blog author): Death at the Holocaust Museum and the Degradation of the American DialogueThere is no Environmental Protection Agency to measure hate pollution in national dialogue, and no mechanism in place to warn us when the poisonous rage spewed into the national consciousness by shock-jocks, poisonous television pundits, megachurch leaders, and oh-so-subtle politicians, has reached dangerously toxic levels. No, there is only the result: widows, orphans, collective grief, and an absolute refusal on the part of our loudest, coarsest voices to take any responsibility for their part in the carnage. Click here to read more….

(blog header by another progressive blog author): The Health Insurance Mafia Deserves a Good Screwing …

(blog header by another progressive blog author): Sexism Against Conservative Women Is Still Sexism

When progressive readers of a hugely-read and influential blog need a reminder that conservative women are just as entitled to human dignities as progressive women, it’s high time for progressives to get off our high horses real fast.

The Huffington Post, to its credit, also has a blog post today by Russell Simmons- which couldn’t be timelier- titled “Cleansing the Hatred From Within.”

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Job-Hunt Discrimination & Defeatist Thinking

I have heard many unemployed workers who are in protected classes under discrimination law (e.g. workers with disabilities, workers over 40 years old) express frustration that employers will not hire them for jobs they are qualified for, and the workers feel this is for discriminatory reasons based on their protected class (e.g. hiring employer does not want to hire workers who have disabilities, who are over 40).

There are times when these workers’ beliefs are in fact supported by evidence, such as discriminatory statements made by the employer during a job interview, the employer having hired a far less-qualified worker who was not in the protected class, etc.  So I will acknowledge, as Kurt Cobain once said, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.”   And hey, my job is representing workers who – in my view of the evidence- the employer was “after.”

However, job applicants  should know there are many times when hiring employers are not “after” you.  There are many, many non-discriminatory reasons (fair and unfair) that an employer may have for not hiring someone.  There may be 100 more qualified applicants that you don’t know about.  The employer’s owner may have wanted to hire his incompetent nephew for the job, which is unfair, but is not unlawful under WI law.

There are many times when job applicants” beliefs of discrimination are not borne of hard evidence, but instead stem from the frustration in not getting a job.  This frustration is completely understandable, as is wondering about discrimination, as discrimination does exist and is not uncommon.

However, just because discrimination is “out there” doesn’t mean it is everywhere.

Further, even if discrimination is in play for a given job opportunity, it does you no good to adopt defeatist beliefs like “They won’t hire me because of my age- heck, most employers won’t hire me because of my age.”  Even if it were true that most employers exercise age-discrimination in hiring (which is not true in my view), it doesn’t do a worker any good to stew about that, or lose motivation because of that.  Again, most of the time, discrimination is not at issue in hiring decisions.

For those occasions where there is evidence that discrimination is an issue, that is not something to defeat you, but rather an obstacle to work around.

In my view, the most common areas of discrimination in job-hiring context, which are supported by the most evidence, is discrimination based on the applicant’s disability, age, or criminal record (criminal record is basis for a protected class under Wisconsin law, although this is not the case under federal law or many other states’ laws).  Within these protected classes, people who fall on the end of the spectrum- people with the most severe disabilities and medical needs, people of increasingly advanced age, people convicted of types of crimes that are strongly shunned by the public- probably are wise to keep potential discrimination in mind as they apply for jobs.

However, such at-risk workers should not dwell on discrimination, or stew about how bad it is (even though it is).  Rather, discrimination should be thought of as something to adjust to.  If your reality is that you are dealing with a hiring employer with discriminatory beliefs (e.g. they believe that a person over 70 cannot perform the job at issue), then your task is to politely deal with that belief and try to change it (e.g. point out the rich experiences and resume that a 70-year old has that a 30-year does not).  Anticipate discriminatory concerns (e.g. that an older worker will want to retire abruptly), and affirmatively and politely address them (e.g. explain what your own goals are, and how your work life with the employer would not live out the employer’s fears).

I don’t want to get too motivational-speaker-like here, and I acknowledge that there are a whole lot of people, including many clients I’ve had, who can tell me a lot more than I can tell them about job-hunting tips.  But when it comes to concerns of discrimination, real or perceived, I can tell you firsthand that it is counterproductive to deal with those concerns by stewing about them or viewing them too negatively.  Again, discrimination is something you can deal with and you can overcome, if and when it presents itself.

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Filed under Employee Tip - Job Application Discrimination