Interests In Employment Litigation Finalized


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From my Employment ADR course at the Straus Institute of Dispute Resolution, Spring 2007

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Interests In Employment Litigation Finalized

  1. 1. Mediating Wrongful Termination Cases with Focus on Interests © 2009 Victoria Pynchon ADR Services, Inc. Los Angeles California
  2. 2. Injustices that the law will rectify are dwarfed by the injustices it will not. We generally consider non-actionable injustices to be frivolous claims. The parties’ “interests” almost always include non-actionable injustices which mediation can address. Actionable injustices World of Injustice
  3. 3. Employment Injustices the Law Will Remedy <ul><li>Employment contract </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Specific duration </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Requiring cause for dismissal </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Termination, transfer, etc. that infringes on specific public policy interest (exception to at will doctrine) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Refusing to act improperly – refuse to engage in unlawful conspiracy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Exercising a right (filing workers’ comp claim) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Whistle blowing (complaining about misdeeds) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Performing public duties (jury duty) </li></ul></ul>© 2009 Victoria Pynchon ADR Services, Inc. Los Angeles California
  4. 4. Improperly Motivated Terminations, Demotions, Reassignments, Etc. <ul><li>Support for a union (NLRA) </li></ul><ul><li>Race, color, religion, sex or national origin (Federal Civil Rights Act) </li></ul><ul><li>Age; veteran status, disability, pregnancy, indebtedness (federal & state laws) </li></ul><ul><li>Sexual or gender preference (California) </li></ul><ul><li>Quid pro quo or hostile environment sexual harassment </li></ul>© 2009 Victoria Pynchon ADR Services, Inc. Los Angeles California
  5. 5. <ul><li>median awards </li></ul><ul><ul><li>$151,800 men </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>$75,000 for women (’88-’95) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>’ 88 - cost of litigating 1 case averaged $80K </li></ul><ul><li>’ 92 studies -- general reluctance to terminate poorly performing employee for fear of suit </li></ul><ul><li>Research in accident cases shows the further litigation proceeds, the more distasteful the experience for plaintiffs ) </li></ul><ul><li>plaintiffs frequently prevail </li></ul><ul><ul><li>64 percent of the time when the plaintiffs are executives; and, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>42 percent of the time when they are general laborers </li></ul></ul>© 2009 Victoria Pynchon ADR Services, Inc. Los Angeles California
  6. 6. <ul><li>distributive justice, or the perceived fairness of outcomes </li></ul><ul><li>procedural justice, or the perceived fairness of the procedures by which outcomes are determined </li></ul><ul><li>interactional justice, the perceived fairness of the nuances of interpersonal treatment. </li></ul>
  7. 7. <ul><li>negative experiences with supervisors; </li></ul><ul><li>Belief that processes used by the supervisor are unfair. </li></ul><ul><li>violations of procedural justice </li></ul><ul><li>perceived violations of equity and distributive justice </li></ul><ul><li>perceived violations of interactional justice </li></ul><ul><li>survivors' attitudes toward their organization are strongly associated with their beliefs about the fairness of the manner in which their companies laid off other workers </li></ul>© 2009 Victoria Pynchon ADR Services, Inc. Los Angeles California
  8. 8. <ul><li>unfair treatment carries a message of social exclusion, threatening social identity </li></ul><ul><li>extremely unfair treatment, carries message of rejection </li></ul><ul><li>Resulting loss of self-esteem provokes vendetta effect </li></ul>© 2009 Victoria Pynchon ADR Services, Inc. Los Angeles California
  9. 9. the greater hardship associated with job loss, the greater impact fairness judgments have on seeking redress
  10. 10. <ul><li>Shorter notice of impending termination increases claiming thoughts and actions. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>learn of dismissal when company AmEx card is rejected at a restaurant </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Learn of dismissal when return to office after lunch and find someone taking name plate off the door </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Failure to provide assistance in finding new employment increases claiming thoughts and actions. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Naming, Blaming and Claiming <ul><li>“ claiming” is a multistage process. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Begins with perception that the event is injurious. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>potential claimant must then blame someone other than themselves for the injury </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>potential claimants must possess the will, the means, and the know-how to pursue their claims. </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. <ul><li>Though claimants' actions may be driven primarily by loss, suit will not be brought under the contingency-fee paradigm unless the attorney believes there will be a sufficient financial pay-off to justify the attorney’s time and expense. </li></ul>
  13. 13. <ul><li>unfair, insensitive treatment at the time of termination had twice effect of next most potent factor in bringing suit. </li></ul><ul><li>Blame not strongly related to the claiming process </li></ul><ul><li>Some, but slight, support for proposition that certain groups are especially likely to sue </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Women’s, minorities’, and union workers’ reasons lay as much in perceptions of poor treatment as in perceived likelihood of success </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Best predictor of willingness to file claims was highly educated respondents </li></ul>
  14. 14. <ul><li>people react to nuances of treatment and style at the time of termination </li></ul><ul><li>quality of the dismissal will affect people’s decision to bring suit as much as termination itself. </li></ul><ul><li>fair, honest, dignified termination should reduce the temptation to retaliate through litigation. </li></ul>
  15. 15. <ul><li>Employees terminated in most disrespectful fashion </li></ul><ul><li>May seek to use litigation to force former employers into a negative relationship to retrieve some of the social identity lost by a demeaning dismissal </li></ul><ul><li>the litigation, once undertaken, will likely continue until the employee feels some return of the social identity they lost in the termination experience </li></ul>
  16. 16. Non-Monetary Offers of Assistance <ul><li>good treatment of laid-off or fired employees </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Give several weeks advance warning </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>provide help in finding new employment </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Give honest accounts </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>provide transitional alumni status when possible </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>provide symbols of positive regard such as letters of reference, departure gifts or parties </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>offer counseling to ease the psychological shock of employment termination </li></ul></ul>We can’t afford a golden parachute but Stanley here is working on a nice paisley umbrella
  17. 17. Assistance with the Financial and Personal Crisis of Job Loss <ul><li>extend insurance benefits </li></ul><ul><li>offer generous severance packages </li></ul><ul><li>provide financial planning services </li></ul><ul><li>Offer ombuds programs </li></ul><ul><li>Referral services </li></ul><ul><li>Job re-training resources </li></ul><ul><li>Revamp personnel policies </li></ul><ul><li>Name something after the person; retire his employee number; give certificate of merit, etc. </li></ul>
  18. 18. You Didn’t Think We’d Ignore the Employer Did You? <ul><li>Interests </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Fear of other claims following this one no matter how good the confidentiality provisions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sense of being extorted </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sense of vulnerability </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Fear of being “wrong,” i.e., that personnel policy or practices & procedures not up to par </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Management’s fears of being blamed </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sense of injustice </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Often paternal or maternal attitude toward employees & feelings of ingratitude </li></ul></ul>
  19. 19. The Employer Seeks Fairness as Much as the Employee <ul><li>The way in which we respond to adversity &quot;often reflects the fact that [our] prestige or status has been threatened more than the fact that [our] purchasing power has been diminished.&quot; Miller, Disrespect and the Experience of Injustice , Annual Review of Psychology (2002). </li></ul><ul><li>In other words, the corporate C.E.O., like any other kid on the block, will retaliate when he feels he has been disrespected. </li></ul><ul><li>Conversely, research shows that business people are reluctant to recommend legal </li></ul><ul><li>action if they believe that they and their company have been treated respectfully. </li></ul><ul><li>Every commercial interaction, we are told, &quot;represents a social exchange and every form of social behavior represents a resource.&quot; Id. </li></ul><ul><li>People's satisfaction with the outcome of a commercial transaction therefore &quot;depends highly, and often primarily, on their perception of the fairness of those outcomes.&quot; Id. </li></ul>Copyright 2006 Charles Fincher Scribble-in-Law at