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Employee acting as her own lawyer? Prepare for a long slog through the legal system

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in Discrimination and Harassment,FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Ten years of litigation has finally come to an end now that a federal appeals court has tossed the last claims of an employee who acted as her own lawyer.

Recent case: Shirley Smith was a public information officer for a port authority, a job that requires extensive public speaking. Dissatisfied with her assistants, Smith decided she had to do much of their work. That stressed her out, aggravating a medical condition that made her lose her voice.

Smith took numerous leaves to recover her voice, including 12 weeks FMLA leave, plus additional time off. She eventually resigned and sued, alleging that she had been discriminated against and denied ADA and FMLA leave.

Representing herself in court, Smith litigated various claims for a decade until the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed her remaining claims as unfounded.

It noted that Smith took all the FMLA leave she was entitled to and more and therefore couldn’t argue interference with her rights. It also noted her employer’s many accommodations during her struggle to find her voice. (Smith v. Virgin Islands Port Authority, et al., No. 10-2230, 3rd Cir., 2012)

Final note: Sometimes, employers in these kinds of cases have no choice but to remain patient as litigation drags on. Employees who represent themselves tend to be tenacious.

Advice: Check your insurance policy to make sure you have coverage for employment-related litigation expenses.

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