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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Filed under Employee Tip - Considering a Legal Action, Philosophy - Employee Rights

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