Employee resigns in the middle of litigation? Courts unlikely to order you to change policies

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

When courts find that an employee has been discriminated against, they often order the employer to end the practice or policy that was the basis for the lawsuit. But when the employee voluntarily quits before the case is over, that remedy isn’t available.

Recent case: Alison Terry worked as a part-time seasonal lifeguard for the city of San Diego. She claimed that she hadn’t been promoted be­­cause of several policies that had a disparate impact on female candidates.

She sued, but during the litigation, she quit voluntarily.

A jury listened to several weeks of testimony and ultimately concluded that San Diego did discriminate against female lifeguards through its promotion policies. The jury said Terry was owed $100,000 in punitive damages. Her attorneys then asked the judge to order San Diego to change the promotion rules.

But the judge said San Diego would not be ordered to change their practices because Terry had quit and therefore wasn’t entitled to the change as a remedy since she would no longer be up for promotion. (Perry v. City of San Diego, No. 06-CV-1459, SD CA, 2012)

Final note: If Terry had pursued her case as a class action, an injunction probably would have been issued. No doubt the next lifeguard who sues will try that tactic unless San Diego makes the change voluntarily.

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