Monthly Archives: January 2010

Feedback about Value: Two Questions for Employment Attorneys and Others in Legal System

I have two questions for you– if you are an employment attorney, paralegal or other actor routinely involved in employment-law systems (agency investigator, judge, etc., to the extent you are willing and allowed to respond)– about how to improve value in legal representation.

The two questions for you (please respond to both) are these:

(1) What can Plaintiff’s employment attorneys do to provide their clients with better value?

(2) What can Defendant’s employment attorneys do to provide their clients with better value?

You can leave your answer by clicking the Leave A Comment link below, or by emailing me at mbrown@dvglawpartner.com.

For more information about the questions and feedback I seek, please Read More.

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Employment Law Case Summaries (For the Employment Lawyers Out There)

For the employment attorneys out there– this is a great blog with up-to-date employment law case summaries from all Circuits.

The blog is authored by Paul Mollica of the Chicago employment law firm Meites, Mulder, Mollica & Glink.  Paul is a great colleague for whom the term “lawyer’s lawyer” does not go far enough.

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Is This Your Job & Life? (Waking Life – Dreams for Free)

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The Super, Scary, Ultra Discretion of the Axman

  Axman-2

Say you’re a corporate employee.  You came down with a nasty virus.  Your sister and her kids passed it on to you; they later apologize for having visited when they were sick.  You get a 102 degree fever, fatigue. Doctor says you’ll wind up in bed for a week, gives you a doctor’s note.  You hadn’t missed a day of work in years before this.  So you call in sick to work, only to hear the HR rep be snide with you, question whether you’re really sick, and badger you before finally granting you the time off.  This upsets you.  So you can’t help but give her your two cents about her and the company before hanging up.

Say you’re an HR employee.  An hourly worker calls in with a “virus.”  Just happens to be a Friday.  Also happens to be the same worker Manager Jones reported as ”insubordinate” a few weeks ago, in relation to a customer complaint.  This worker has found a doctor willing to give him a note for a full week off for a flu virus.  What kind of virus lasts a full week– doesn’t the typical flu last 72 hours at most??  Worst case, his flu should be over, and he should be back to work, early next week as opposed to Friday.  That department is already short workers.  Now, you’ve got to find someone to cover, on short notice.  But you’ll have to do it.  God forbid HR question the medical necessity of this 1-week flu vacation; if so, you’d have to answer to some lawyer the employee hires, and after that have corporate chew you out.

What stinks about this scenario (besides all of it)?

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The “Principle” Matters– But A Civil Lawsuit Is Often Not the Means to Pursue It

This blog often says an employee in a dispute with an employer should pay more attention to bottom-line financial considerations (e.g. how much money an employment lawsuit could cost you vs. how much you could win) than to the “principle” of the matter (e.g. how wrong the employer’s action was).

Many folks disagree with this blog’s de-emphasis of “principle.”  And there are some very abusive bad employment situations out there one can point to as examples of “principle” being important, even when financial loss was not a factor.  I have heard from workers whose bosses subjected them to physical assault, to screaming, and to comments and acts that were so insulting they leave me scratching my head as to which direction this world is heading.

Hostile workplace situations– which often do not involve financial loss, or violate the law– are nonetheless harmful and should be addressed.

So, I must note the principle of the matter DOES matter. If your employer is harassing you, that is wrong, and that matters, regardless whether an attorney tells you that you have a good legal claim or not.

The concern this blog has with “principle” is mainly an issue of FORUM: if you address your issue via a civil lawsuit (say, a discrimination claim) this is often not the best forum in which to pursue a principle.  If the “principle” matter is accompanied by an economic loss– for example, if someone is sexually harassed, fired for complaining of sexual harassment, and loses six months of income– then the civil justice system is an appropriate place to try to recover lost money along with the principle.  But the civil system does not make an employer change its heart or apologize, and often winning parties do not even feel a sense of vindication, they just have a financial gain.

A principle– such as correcting an employer’s misconduct, ensuring other employees are not harassed or fired for wrong reasons in the future, etc.– is often better addressed by non-litigation means than by litigation.

A person looking to correct an employer’s conduct can (1) pursue informal, non-costly means to address a problem, like a heart-to-heart discussionwith a representative of the employer (hey, sometimes to your surprise there is a person of influence who will listen to you, you both have open minds, and communication works!); (2) contact your legislator and/or pursue legislation to address the problem/issue of “principle” (for example, Wisconsin could benefit from anti-bullying legislation like some other states have, which prohibit abusive conduct by employers); (3) take your labor and your talents to a better work environment, knowing there are better days ahead.

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Should You Drop the L- Bomb, and Tell The Employer You’re Retaining a Lawyer?

An experimental scale model of the B-25 plane ...

Image by The Library of Congress via Flickr

Are you an employee in an employment dispute, and considering whether to “drop the L-bomb,” and tell your employer you’re retaining an attorney?

Occasionally, an employee/prospective client who consults with me will tell me that he already dropped the L-bomb, and already told his employer he would be retaining a lawyer.

Often, this news was told to the employer in a huff, e.g. “If you insist on denying my medical leave, Ms. Manager, well then you’ll be hearing from my lawyer!”  Every once in awhile, an employee who I’ve never even met or communicated with will send an email to the manager he or she’s having a dispute with, and will copy my email address (found on the internet) on the email to the manager.  Thus this gives the impression I have been retained to represent someone I’d never been in contact with.  (For anyone considering using a lawyer/email address to do this, please DON’T– it’s not a good idea for many reasons).

Making L-bomb threats may feel good when one is frustrated.  However, what feels good to say or do “in the moment” of an angry employment dispute can often result in bad, long-term consequences.

In most situations, it will NOT help an employee to drop the L-bomb, and tell your employer that you’re retaining a lawyer.

In many situations, the employee’s mere mention of the L-word makes the employer even more upset, makes the employer take more adverse actions, and makes the situation worse.  Most employers are not intimidated by L-threats, because often the threats aren’t carried out.  It may be the employer’s experience that they’ve heard many L-bombs dropped, but usually a lawyer was not hired, there was no lawsuit, etc.  Or perhaps your employer anticipates you will likely get a lawyer, but the employer has planned for the worst-case L-scenarios and risks, and the employer isn’t worried about your particular legal issues.  And sometimes, an employee’s L-bomb threat appears to work, and the employer seems to back off, but only later the employee learns the L-threat just made the employer take more carefully-planned actions, without giving the employee (and her attorney) advance warnings anymore.

In sum, the L-bomb usually turns out to be less intimidating to the employer, and less effective in improving the employee’s situation, than the employee expects.

With all that said, there are certain occasions where the news of hiring a lawyer, when well-delivered, CAN make an abrupt and positive impact on an employee’s matter.  And if you’re hiring an attorney long-term, such as for litigation work, the employer must and will be told you have a lawyer at some point, in fairness to the employer.  But before you rush to deliver that news yourself, especially if you’re in a huff, you should stop to reflect.  Since you’re getting a lawyer involved, then it only makes sense you talk to that lawyer about your plans (including any planned announcement you’ve retained a lawyer) before you put those plans in action.

It’s best that the lawyer and employee/client discuss and plan in advance the announcement that the lawyer was hired.  Then that news can be delivered to the employer under carefully-considered timing and circumstances.

that the lawyer and employee/client discuss and plan in adva
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