Tag Archives: Wisconsin Employee Rights

About to Complain to Management? Think Big Picture.

If you are gearing up to give management an earful tomorrow about all the wrongs they have been committing, please give some thought to the big picture before you head off to give your speech.  Especially if you are right, and you have stacks of documents proving you are right.

Being right is not enough.  If your employer thinks the sky is green, and fires you because you insist it is blue, you may be right but you are still fired.  And if you intend on proving (to the point of a legal judgment) that the sky is in fact blue, you have at least a few years of litigation, and a few years of significant expense, to look forward to.  

Most companies know this.   They know they hold your cards– they hold your job and income, and they can take it away.   Abruptly.  If they fire you, they know you will have no income, and that you’ll probably need income if you wish to enforce your legal rights.  They know litigation takes years to complete, and they know they will likely have much more money to pay toward litigation than an individual like you does.

Are you thinking about all these dynamics when you’re planning to confront your manager?  

Now, it’s true that if you complain about your employer’s wrongdoing, there are laws that protect against retaliation.  There are also laws that prohibit speeding and Bernie Madoff-ing, and you can see how effective those laws are as applied to reality.  Sometimes those laws are effective– sometimes wrongdoers get caught and don’t squirm out of a significant legal penalty, but too often the real-life penalties do not turn out like the wronged person would like to think.

Before you give your manager an earful, make sure you have a back-up plan if they fire you.  A real back-up plan.  A new job lined up.  A large nest egg saved up.  Advice from a competent and value-conscious attorney, telling you what potential legal claims and options you have.

But if you believe that simply being right is enough, you are rolling the dice.

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Filed under Employee Tip - Considering a Legal Action, Employee Tip - Problems at Job

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