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Courts give benefit of doubt to pro se plaintiffs

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Some employees act as their own lawyers, something that can put employers at a disadvantage. That’s because courts bend over backward to make sure an unrepresented litigant gets his day in court.

Recent case: Bakarr Bangura sued his former employer over alleged discrimination based on his Senegalese national origin. Using a blank federal form provided to pro se litigants, he checked only the box for suing under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA). His form didn’t make any federal law claims.

The employer got the case dismissed because Bangura hadn’t filed a state discrimination agency complaint before he sued.

But he appealed, and the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals reversed. It ordered a trial court to reconsider whether Bangura has a Title VII claim even though he didn’t check that box. (Bangura v. Elwyn, No. 11-4235, 3rd Cir., 2012)

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