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Employee representing herself? Document all parts of settlement process

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

It can be tricky to handle a lawsuit filed by a former employee who is acting as her own lawyer. If you settle the case, the former employee may later claim you tricked her into taking less money than she was entitled to.

Solution: Carefully document the settlement process. Be able to prove you suggested having the employee ask a real attorney to review the proposed settlement.

Recent case: When Kerri lost her job with a hospital, she hired an attorney to send a letter outlining her claims that she had been discriminated against due to pregnancy and disability.

She had a falling out with that lawyer, so she filed her own case with the New York City Human Rights Commission, which dismissed it.

Meanwhile, without an attorney, Kerri filed a small claims court lawsuit alleging unpaid wages. The hospital negotiated a settlement that gave her a little more than she requested. The hospital’s representative told her she should have an attorney review the agreement and explain the terms, which included giving up the right to sue over her employment. Kerri signed the settlement offer and took the money.

Then Kerri filed a federal lawsuit alleging ADA violations and pregnancy discrimination. The court tossed it out, holding Kerri to the agreement because it appeared to have been negotiated fairly and in good faith. (Douglas v. New York Presbyterian, No. 15-CV-9473, SD NY, 2016)

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