Nothing will get an organization in hot water faster than ignoring legal paperwork. Missed deadlines may mean a default judgment, with the tardy employer missing any chance to defend itself in court. The court will hear only from the employees and probably will accept their claims without much question.
That’s why it’s absolutely crucial to have a clear process for handling any incoming legal documents. Everyone from the mailroom clerk to the front desk receptionist should know exactly what to do with legal documents.
The best approach is to designate a specific person who must receive the paperwork as soon as possible. Time-stamp or initial the documents. Stress to all that time is of the essence. Paperwork must be delivered to the designated person within one business day.
Recent case: Lacey and Laney Wesley both worked part time for Meadowview Community Action. They claimed they were fired and replaced by men. Both quickly found work that paid better than their Meadowview jobs. But that didn’t stop them from filing an EEOC sex discrimination complaint.
Their former employer ignored them, and the EEOC filed a federal lawsuit. Meadowview ignored that, too. That’s when the court mailed a default notice, explaining that if the organization continued to ignore the case, the court would simply decide what the Wesleys were due.
The court held a hearing and determined the women had lost just $760 each because they had soon found better jobs. But the court added $15,000 to each woman’s total damages after hearing them testify about how upset and ashamed they had been to lose their jobs.
The total tab for the lawsuit came to $31,520. Essentially, ignoring the documents cost Meadowview an extra $30,000. (EEOC v. Meadowview Community Action, No. S-06-1562, ED CA, 2008)
- Establish clear discipline policies--and follow them for every employee, every time
- Cite specific reasons for disciplining every employee who breaks company rules
- What are the ground rules for records retention?
- Can favoritism amount to a 'hostile' work environment?
- Show fairness by documenting all rule violations, discipline