Tag Archives: Lawsuit

WI Anti-Bullying Bill, Part II: What Could it Mean for Workforces and Employers if Enacted?

Wisconsin’s anti-bullying bill, if enacted, would prohibit employers’ “abusive conduct” that cause employees “tangible harm.”

I wrote a post here that summarizes the bill.

This post (Part II) speculates what effects the bill could have, in real-life, if enacted.  (If you don’t want my opinion, stop here! :)).

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Filed under Employee Rights & Employment Law, Legislation, Resources for WI Workers

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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Employee Tip: Document Your Job-Hunting Efforts, If You Want to Legally Challenge Your Termination

If you are an employee, had your job terminated, and are even thinking you may bring a legal claim against your former employer some day, please know that you should keep documentation relating to your job search efforts.

You may ask, “What does my job-search or new employment have to do with what my old employer did?”  The answer: for most common employment claims (e.g. a claim your termination violated discrimination law), the offending employer can be held responsible for wages you lost (or “back pay”) from the date of your termination forward.  An offending employer could try to legally reduce or eliminate the back pay it has to pay you by claiming that you didn’t look hard enough for a new job (or that you “failed to mitigate damages” in legal speak).

To avoid this potential argument that you failed to mitigate damages or look hard enough for work, you should keep documentation of your job-hunting efforts to remove any doubt that you made reasonable efforts to find work.

What Documentation You Should Keep

To keep good documentation of your job-search efforts, you should:

  • Keep or record information about every prospective employer you contact (e.g. write down the prospective employer’s name, date of call/visit, what job position you inquired about, rate of pay, etc.).
  • Save copies of job-application-related documents (e.g. job ads you reviewed, applications you sent, cover letters, resumes, rejection letters, etc.).
  • Save copies of unemployment-related documents you have (e.g. Wisconsin’s Unemployment division requires that an unemployment claimant-employee contact at least two prospective employers per week, and to keep documentation to that effect).

If you keep these forms of documentation, you will be in a better position for any future legal claim against the employer who terminated your employment.

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Filed under Employee Tip - Considering a Legal Action, Employee Tip - Unemployment

Corporate Rhetoric, the Decline of Individual Rights, and What You Can Do About It

If you listened only to corporate-based rhetoric, you would get the following impressions about individuals who sue organizations:

  • Frivolous lawsuits are out of control, and too many huge verdicts are being awarded to individuals who spill coffee on themselves and the like.
  • There are too many individuals- including employees, consumers, injured persons and attorneys- who are “extortionists,” and are filing frivolous lawsuits to look for a quick (and large) buck.
  • “Tort reform,” and restricting individuals’ access to the legal system, is needed, or else businesses may not financially survive.

As someone who works with individuals bringing legal claims, I see many problems with these concepts, which mischaracterize the state of the world as I experience it.

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Filed under Philosophy - Employee Rights

Don’t File or Prolong a Lawsuit “Out of Principle”

This is a tip not only for employees, but also for employers and anyone else who is thinking about litigation.

If you are thinking of filing a civil lawsuit, or gearing up for a vigorous defense of a lawsuit (e.g. “we’re not going to pay that s.o.b. a dime”), you should know that starting or prolonging a lawsuit is only good for a select few things (see below).

What a lawsuit is NOT good at doing is proving a “principle,” or obtaining any type of emotional satisfaction.  To the contrary, the longer the litigation goes, both parties in a lawsuit usually become more and more emotionally-drained.  Usually, both parties, and especially the defendant/respondent, become more financially-drained over time.  (This disadvantage does not apply to the parties’ lawyers, who often get paid more the longer things go).

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