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Employee acting as her own lawyer? That may not be the easy win you hope for

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

Lately, courts have landed hard on attorneys who take so-called frivolous cases, hoping to wrestle a quick settlement from ­employers eager to make the case go away. Judges have been dismissing the cases and even ordering big fines for the attorneys who bring the cases. That should theoretically reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits.

It probably won’t. The end result is that more employees go it alone. The problem is, judges sometimes feel sorry for the workers. They try to help by outlining what the employee has to prove to win a case, along with instructions on how to refile their lawsuits and other tips.

That’s why so-called pro se lawsuits are often just as hard for employers to win as any other case.

Recent case: Ruby filed a long, rambling lawsuit against her employer, accusing it of discrimination and harassment. But she included few details. Her employer asked the judge to dismiss the case.

He did, but only after providing a point-by-point road map showing Ruby what allegations she needed to make for a case and telling her she would have one more chance to rework her complaint following the guidelines. (Bradley v. County of Sacramento, No. 2:13-CV-2420, ED CA 2014)

Final note: When an employee is acting as his or her own lawyer, don’t expect the case to just go away. Respond as you would to any other lawsuit. Meet all filing deadlines.

Never ignore such a suit. If you do, the court just may issue a default judgment against you. Then all the worker has to do is prove damages.

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