Friday, February 8, 2013

Why Litigate? Perhaps to Persuade Other Workers Suing Isn't the Answer

I encourage employers to avoid litigation.  Much of my practice is devoted to training employers on lawful employment practices.  It creates a better workplace.  And it cuts down on litigation.  When disputes arise, an employer should consider settlement.  It can help heal the workplace and reduce costs. 

But litigation can serve a useful purpose.  For example, sometimes you should litigate because you want to dissuade other employees from suing. 

I have a client who faced a serious legal challenge when a couple of former employees filed a lawsuit.  Of course everyone in the office was aware of the lawsuit.  There was plenty of gossip in the office, and speculation as to the outcome of the litigation. 

My client felt compelled to vigorously defend the lawsuit.  The client knew it was in the right and could prevail.  However, the client also knew that proceeding to trial was risky and could result in an adverse judgment.  At that point, the client would have spent a lot of money and had its nose rubbed in it! 

But the client knew that if it did not defend the case, other employees would follow.  In fact, one employee was overheard saying something to the effect that if she didn't get her way on something, she would also file a lawsuit against the company. 

I often see former employees hire the same lawyer as a former co-worker who was successful in litigation or in settling a dispute.  So it is a valid point for an employer to consider:  What will happen with the rest of the staff if I settle this case?  Will others file a similar lawsuit? 

By the way, my client won.  Big.  The client won on everything.  Other employees don't gossip about filing a similar lawsuit anymore. 

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