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3rd Circuit takes dim view when employees appeal decisions in frivolous lawsuits

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Good news for employers vexed by employees’ repetitious and frivolous lawsuits: If a trial court does a good job explaining why a case should be dismissed, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals probably won’t grant an appeal.

Recent case: Federal government employee Jeffrey Harley, who is black, filed a lawsuit claiming race discrimination, harassment and retaliation. Harley and the government settled and he got some cash plus a promotion to the next service grade level.

Over the next few years, Harley filed a discrimination complaint seemingly every time anything nega­­tive happened to him at work, in­­cluding once when someone “glared” at him in the office.

Then he sued, alleging the incidents added up to harassment and retaliation for winning the earlier settlement.

The lower court dismissed Harley’s case, but he appealed. It took the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals all of two pages to uphold the lower court’s much longer decision. (Harley v. Secretary of the Treasury, No. 10-4501, 3rd Cir., 2011)

Final note: There is a sure-fire way to avoid repetitive lawsuits like this one. If you are going to settle a case, consider making the settlement contingent on the employee leaving his job and promising never to apply again.

Of course, that probably requires a bigger settlement figure, but what you lose upfront may be gained back in not having to deal with subsequent lawsuits that eat up valuable time and energy.

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