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Employee represents herself? Be patient

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

In a perfect world, employers wouldn’t have to spend time and money defending against frivolous discrimination claims. We don’t live in that world.

The best approach when faced with an employee who files her own lawsuit without a lawyer’s help is to exercise patience. Prepare as if the case will go to trial. At the same time, press for a quick dismissal. In almost all cases, a judge will toss out the case as soon as he or she is convinced there’s nothing there.

Recent case: Bernice worked as a licensed practical nurse, caring for people in their own homes. When one of her patients moved to a different town, Bernice was out of work. She applied for the same position with her employer in the patient’s new town. The company chose not to hire her, sending her a letter that simply stated it had hired someone else.

Bernice filled out a federal lawsuit form and alleged in her complaint she had really been fired because of a “mental disability” from which she had recovered years earlier. She mentioned the ADA in her complaint but didn’t provide any specifics on what her disability was or how it affected her life. She sought to have her supervisors held personally responsible for not rehiring her.

The company asked the court to toss out the case because it was so riddled with legal problems. For example, Bernice hadn’t had it served properly. The company also denied it had discriminated on the basis of any disability.

The judge went through each objection and ended up dismissing the case for multiple reasons, including lack of service, failing to show a disability and the fact that the ADA doesn’t allow personal liability against supervisors or managers. (Benitez v. Maxim Health Care, et al., 1:12-CV-1195, MD NC, 2013)

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