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Did employee file small claims case? You may get later lawsuit tossed

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

One cardinal rule of law is this: You can only be sued once for all claims related to a particular wrong. Employees can’t continue to sue you over the same discharge, for example, even if they have multiple claims under several laws. That’s why you should always bring to your attorney’s attention any small-claims cases an employee has filed and lost that seem related to his or her employment.

Recent case: Mark Apseloff was fired from his position as a district manager for Family Dollar stores. He immediately filed two small-claims cases against his former employer: in the first, he demanded stock options; in the second, payment for unpaid vacation time. The courts dismissed both small claims.

Three years later Apseloff sued Family Dollar under Ohio’s state discrimination statute, alleging that he had complained to upper management about alleged sex discrimination in his district—purportedly that males were not placed on the registers because they were more prone to stealing—and had been fired in retaliation.

But the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed his third lawsuit, reasoning that it was related to his first two claims cases because it had to do with his discharge. Employees must bring all related cases together at the same time, and can’t try to inflict “death by a thousand paper cuts” on their employers. (Apseloff v. Family Dollar Stores, No. 06-4200, 6th Cir., 2007)

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