An arbitrator has awarded $1.2 million in back pay and damages to 19 former employees of Wurld Media, Inc. The Saratoga Springs-based Internet startup, which marketed a product similar to iTunes, began having trouble making payroll in 2006.
Recently, courts have begun to fine pro se litigants who file lawsuits that have no chance of success. That should discourage some former employees from suing without the help of an attorney.
Congress will be taking a fresh look at the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) this fall, now that a Capitol Hill compromise has stripped out the bill’s controversial “card check” provision, which would have required union certification with a majority of employee signatures.
Before you decide to throw out old evaluations and files, consider this: An employee may sue and refer back to those evaluations from memory. If she remembers nothing but positive performance reviews until a recent poor appraisal (engineered, she believes, to get her fired), you’ll need to be able to show her employment history wasn’t as rosy as she remembers.
Occasionally, employees (and their lawyers) get more creative than usual when it comes to claiming how they suffered discrimination. Take the following case in which an employee claimed he was being harassed because some co-workers believed all people of his nationality are gay.
Courts give employers the benefit of a doubt when it comes to the qualifications they seek in job candidates, and the questions they ask during interviews. As long as the criteria and questions are job-related and not otherwise illegal, courts grant wide latitude. But once you decide on hiring criteria and use them to rank candidates, resist the temptation to go back and tinker with the rankings.
When Gov. David Paterson was Senate minority leader in 2003, he fired a white photographer and replaced him with a less qualified black one. Now the state has agreed to settle the original photographer’s lawsuit for $300,000 while admitting no wrongdoing.
Here’s a way to guarantee a race discrimination case will go to a jury trial: Let a supervisor with an obvious racial bias participate in the decision to terminate an employee who belongs to the protected class the supervisor dislikes. Even if you have a seemingly legitimate reason to terminate the employee, the supervisor’s involvement will taint the entire process.
Employees who have been injured may try to return to positions for which they are no longer qualified because they still suffer limitations on the work they can do. Employers are free to deny reinstatement if the employees’ new limitations mean they can’t perform the essential functions of their jobs, even with accommodations.
The main reason to settle a case is to make the whole thing go away. But when you settle with a former employee, consider the possibility that she may apply for open positions in the future. If you want to avoid a second round of litigation, consider including a “no rehire” clause in the settlement agreement.