In HR, sometimes one just has to wait while disputes run their course—like when a terminated employee sues over claims that clearly have no basis in reality.
You can’t ignore such a lawsuit, but you should push your attorney right away to resolve the situation. Then sit back and let him or her handle the litigation, even if it seems to drag on forever.
Recent case: Cheareen Jones was a flight attendant for Express Jet Airlines until she was terminated for missing a mandatory meeting. When she apparently couldn’t find an attorney to represent her, she filed a lawsuit herself.
She alleged, among other things, that she had really been set up for termination because of her race. To support her claim, she explained in her pleadings that somehow Express Jet “witchcrafted the cabin, causing a passenger to get upset” with the pilot and Jones.
The court eventually dismissed the case after unsuccessfully trying to make sense of her claims. (Jones v. Express Jet Airlines, No. 11-926, DC NJ, 2011)
Final note: The worst thing you can do when served with papers is to completely ignore them. If you do, the former employee may win a default judgment based on your failure to respond.
Have a clear policy for what to do when served with litigation papers. The policy should require immediately calling your in-house attorney if you have one, or your insurance carrier and outside counsel if you don’t.
- How to Fire an Employee the Legal Way: 6 Termination Guidelines
- Did zeal to stop discrimination lead to retaliation?
- Whip your COBRA notices into shape for the new year
- NLRB may soon lack quorum as Obama's nominees face opposition
- Litigious workers can't force you to quickly disclose co-workers' names, addresses