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Don’t expect quick dismissal just because employee has decided to act as his own attorney

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

When an employee represents himself, prepare for a fight—even if you know the claim doesn’t have much merit. That’s because courts don’t like to toss out cases without giving every benefit of the doubt to employees who can’t find attorneys to represent them.

Absolutely push to have the case dismissed. But in the meantime, treat the case just as seriously as you would any other litigation. Gather the facts and prepare a defense.

Recent case: Scott, a black male, sued his former employer, demanding compensation for lost wages. He represented himself, alleging race and age discrimination. He claimed that his employer hired a young white man to do his job, transferred Scott to a less desirable position with fewer overtime opportunities and eventually fired him.

The employer asked the court to toss out the lawsuit because Scott’s EEOC complaint made no reference to his termination, only that a co-worker allegedly received better treatment.

The court did reject Scott’s wrongful termination claim because he hadn’t mentioned it in his EEOC complaint. But the court said Scott should have an opportunity to prove discrimination in court because he had declared that claim to the EEOC. (Dawling v.Shamrock Environ­­mental Cor­­por­­a­­tion, No. 1:12-Cv-198, MD NC, 2012)

Final note: Pro se litigants can be difficult. Litigation usually goes more smoothly when each side has an attorney to represent its interests. A good plaintiff’s attorney will usually drop any claims that are ­obviously frivolous for fear of court sanctions.

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