Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Monday, March 17, 2003

Basically, It's About Fairness

When I give speeches about trying an employment law case, I frequently say that all the plaintiff's attorney wants to do is avoid summary judgment and be in front of the jury arguing about fairness. I have been pleased to hear a number of plaintiff's employment lawyers say the same things. Rather than being a great insight, maybe that is just stating the obvious. At least that seems to be the view of one successful plaintiff, Rose Hershberger, now 76 who sued Maryland based Hanger Prosthetics & Orthotics Inc. for her termination after she fell and hurt herself at work. After being out to recover, she was told her position was eliminated when she returned. According to the Birmingham News a Jefferson County, Alabama jury awarded her $150,000 in actual damages and $850,000 in punitive damages for her termination. But she was the one with the real money quote
"They are a very, very big company with a lot of offices all across the country and, for the average worker I think it's important that an employer pay attention to the employee and is fair.... That's all anybody ever wants is fairness. That's basically what it was all about from beginning to end."

The lesson to be learned is the importance of always remembering that no matter what legal question a jury is asked, in an employment law case, often the real question is: was this fair?

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