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Don’t panic when former employee files massive lawsuit—most claims go away

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in Employment Law,Firing,Human Resources

These days, employees and their attorneys often go to great lengths to intimidate employers. One way to do that is to file a huge lawsuit—one that takes up pages and pages, and includes a laundry list of allegations in addition to the usual ones such as age, sex and other discrimination.

It isn’t unusual to see complaints that include intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, invasion of privacy, wrongful termination in violation of public policy and a half dozen additional claims.

Before you panic, call your attorneys. They can walk you through the complaint and come up with a tactic that probably will get the most frivolous complaints dismissed quickly. Most of the time, the case can be whittled down to the most relevant claims. It may be dismissed entirely.

Recent case: Sandra Gilliland sued her former long-term employer, Safeway, after she was terminated for refusing to take a drug test as required under a collective-bargaining agreement.

Her lawyers threw the book at Safeway, coming up with many novel legal claims, including retaliation for workers’ comp claims that had been resolved years ago, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress and defamation, among other charges.

Safeway’s attorneys pushed hard to get the judge to dismiss the frivolous claims as fast as possible. The judge agreed Gilliland’s claims had no merit or were too old, and tossed out the case well before trial. (Gilliland v. Safeway, No. 2:08-CV-01134, ED CA, 2008)

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