Nothing makes a former employee’s attorney sing for joy more than an employer that ignores a lawsuit. In fact, when employers ignore lawsuits and hope they will go away, it’s almost certain the attorney—and the employee the attorney represents—will have a fast and easy payday.
That’s why you should immediately contact counsel with any legal papers that come your way.
Recent case: Last year, waitress Kristie Hornsby sued the Three Dollar Cafe and three managers, claiming they racially discriminated against her by refusing to promote her to bartender and then firing her.
After the litigation got under way, the defendants’ attorney—who represented the cafe, its owners and managers—withdrew from the case. Most of the defendants then got new attorneys, but the cafe and one of the managers did not. Hornsby then asked for a default judgment. She got the order, which essentially said the Three Dollar Cafe was liable because it didn’t put up a defense.
Hornsby now will receive $25,000 in lost wages and $10,000 in punitive damages. Her attorney will pocket $36,148. The manager who put up no defense will pay out $30,000. (Hornsby v. Three Dollar Cafe, et al., No. 1:03-CV-1668, ND GA, 2007)
- Employees fighting? Punish everyone equitably—or be prepared to explain why not
- Back up even minor disciplinary action with solid records
- Supervisor deserves termination? Fire away--even if he's a member of a protected class
- Don't throw the book at fired employee--one good reason will suffice in court
- Don't let fear of lawsuit keep you from firing harasser