• LinkedIn
  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google+

Beware! Courts giving more leeway to employees who act as their own attorneys

by on
in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Human Resources

The employment law cases hardest to handle are often those in which an applicant or employee doesn’t have an attorney. Those employees often file complaints and lawsuits containing what seem like out-of-the-blue allegations. With no one knowledgeable to help, they throw in irrelevant claims.

Plus, employers that want to resolve the complaints or settle lawsuits often find such legal opponents extremely difficult to negotiate with, simply because the employee doesn’t know how.

Now federal judges seem to be exacerbating the problem by giving unrepresented litigants every benefit of the doubt. Two recent cases show that leeway may even include letting slide missed deadlines.

Recent case No. 1: Milton Nobles, who is black, filed an EEOC complaint alleging that because of his race his employer reassigned him to the third shift and counseled him about his work performance.

The EEOC dismissed the case, which technically gave Nobles 90 days to file a federal discrimination lawsuit. Apparently unable or unwilling to find an attorney, Nobles chose to represent himself. He went to federal court with a complaint 90 days later.

However, he told the clerk that he didn’t have money for the filing fees and asked that he be excused from paying them. The court took several days to approve his request and then filed the complaint. Technically, that made it late, and his employer asked that the case be dismissed.

But the court said an unrepresented litigant gets some leeway and concluded the complaint was timely. In the end, it did dismiss the case because the complaint contained allegations that had nothing to do with the EEOC complaint.

But the dismissal came after the employer spent time and money on attorneys to refute the facts. (Nobles v. North Carolina, et al., No. 5:07-CV-381, ED NC, 2008)

Recent case No. 2: Terry Moses tried to sue his employer, the North Carolina Department of Transportation, for alleged race discrimination. Because he didn’t have an attorney, he sent out the complaint himself, assuming he could use a U.S. Postal Service certified mail return receipt as proof he had served the employer.

But North Carolina law requires all government agencies to designate someone as the “process agent” who receives all lawsuits. The reason is to avoid having lawsuit paperwork get lost in the bowels of government. Moses, however, didn’t send his complaint to the official process agent, so the state asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit.

The court refused, explaining that litigants representing themselves should be granted some leeway. It then told Moses whom to send a copy to. (Moses v. North Carolina Department of Transportation, No. 2:07-CV-52, ED NC, 2008)

Note: Employers should never assume that they could ignore a complaint just because it comes from an unrepresented plaintiff. Nor should employers assume that technicalities will always get a case tossed.

Advice: Instead, the safer bet may be to move aggressively to push for a quick dismissal. Otherwise, the case may linger on, costing time and money.

Like what you've read? ...Republish it and share great business tips!

Attention: Readers, Publishers, Editors, Bloggers, Media, Webmasters and more...

We believe great content should be read and passed around. After all, knowledge IS power. And good business can become great with the right information at their fingertips. If you'd like to share any of the insightful articles on BusinessManagementDaily.com, you may republish or syndicate it without charge.

The only thing we ask is that you keep the article exactly as it was written and formatted. You also need to include an attribution statement and link to the article.

" This information is proudly provided by Business Management Daily.com: http://www.businessmanagementdaily.com/5230/beware-courts-giving-more-leeway-to-employees-who-act-as-their-own-attorneys "

Leave a Comment