Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Employment Law Case That Just Keeps On Going

Lawsuits that stretch out over the years are not all that uncommon, but the tale that started with a discrimination law suit that was settled in 1997, just had another major development, a $4.9 million dollar malpractice verdict against the attorneys who represented the initial claimant in her earlier successful malpractice claim against her original attorneys. 12 Years of Persistence Rewarded With $4.9 Million Verdict in Malpractice Case.

If I understood it all, here's a little bit more about the sequence:
  • Jackie Young, is part of a group that sued BellSouth for racial discrimination. Plaintiff's counsel was the firm of Ruden McClosky.
  • In that case each plaintiff, including Young, received about $5,000 each.
  • Those plaintiffs later learned that their attorneys had received $120,000 a year for 4 years, entered into a consulting agreement with BellSouth and agreed not to file any more employment cases against the company for one year.
  • The original plaintiffs hired Becker & Poliakoff to sue the Ruden McClosky firm for malpractice.
  • That case was settled for $8 million in 2002 with the proceeds split between 54 plaintiffs.
  • During the settlement negotiations of that case, Becker & Poliakoff sued BellSouth on behalf of Young alleging continuing discrimination. That suit was dismissed when Becker & Poliakoff failed to respond to BellSouth's motion to dismiss.
  • Young did not find about the dismissal for a year, she claimed because Becker & Poliakoff did not want to jeopardize the settlement of the first malpractice claim and their $2.6 million dollar fee.
  • Now a verdict has been returned in the 2nd malpractice case, this one by Young against Becker & Poliakoff for the way her individual case was handled. The verdict $4.9 million.

It of course will be appealed.


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Monday, September 28, 2009

EEOC's Year End Rush - 2009 Version

Ross Runkel comments on recent litigation activity at EEOC announces 32 suits in past seven days. Although I don't know the numbers in recent years, I do know that there is always a rush to file lawsuits by the EEOC before the government year ends on September 30th. See my post of a year ago, It's the Last Week in September, So Be Ready for EEOC vs. ...


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Friday, September 25, 2009

Bullying: The Movement that Keeps on Trying

David Yamada and I have very different view points on whether or not a bullying cause of action should exist (he drafted the model act that has been offered in a number of legislatures), but he is always a good source for monitoring what is going on and I take what he says seriously.

In a recent post, November’s Work, Stress, and Health Conference: A tipping point for workplace bullying research? commenting on the biennial meeting sponsored by the American Psychological Association, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and Society for Occupational Health Psychology, he points to five specific sessions that specifically refer to bullying and a number of others that use terms such as 'workplace incivility, aggression, harassment, violence and mistreatment."

His thoughts:

It’s enough to make me wonder if we’re reaching a saturation level! But for now I’ll gratefully accept the abundance as sign that we’re reaching a good tipping point in terms of the mainstreaming of workplace bullying as an employment relations concern.

My position is not pro-bullying, just anti-legislation. My concern is that no matter how well drafted, it is too nuanced an issue for the courts to successfully handle. I am sure Professor Yamada will have more posts after the conference (early November) and that they will be well worth following, no matter where you are on this issue.


Michael, thank you for those comments. At a time when so much of our civic discourse is so full of incivility, I appreciate when well meaning people can have honest differences of opinion and articulate them in a collegial way.

David Yamada
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A UK/USA Split - Protection For Those Over 65

The British High Court has apparently just held that mandatory retirement at age 65 is permissible. 65 all out…….. ».

That's where the U.S. statutory protection, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, started; but two amendments later, it has no upper cap.


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Monday, September 14, 2009

The Obama Board - EFCA Is By No Means the Whole Deal

The Employee Free Choice Act has certainly garnered the majority of ink and/or pixels in discussions about the possible changes in the law of labor relations, but it is by no means the only change on the horizon. In fact, as has now become abundantly clear, EFCA is subject to the vagaries of the legislative process which is biased in favor of doing nothing. What form of legislation, if any, can pass remains a very open question.

One other question however was decided on the night of November 4, 2008. When President Obama was elected it was certain that within some period of time there would be an Obama National Labor Relations Board. Currently the Board is operating with two members, but three others have been nominated and when they are confirmed, there will be a 3-2 Democratic majority.

For a look into what that may mean, two of my Ogletree Deakins colleagues, the father/son duo of Hal and Chris Coxson, have prepared a monograph for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, The National Labor Relations Board in The Obama Administration: What Changes to Expect.

According to the Chamber's press release announcing the report:

The purpose of this publication is to provide an overview of how the law administered by the NLRB is likely to change during the Obama Administration. The vast majority of this analysis is focused on cases decided by the Board in recent years that Democratic Members of the Board dissented to and that organized labor has criticized. While some of these cases are high profile, such as the Board’s decision in Dana/Metaldyne that effectively gives employees notice before a union and an employer can circumvent the law’s secret ballot process for union recognition, others are much less well known. However, reversal of these technical rules, such as whether permanent strike replacement workers may be hired on an at-will basis, as discussed in Jones Plastics and Engineering Co., collectively will increase union leverage in every aspect of labor-management relations.

In addition to the changes to existing precedent, it is also possible that for the first time since the 1974 rules relating to health care institutions, the Board may engage in substantive rule making.

You can download the full report from Chamber's website [pdf]. Happy reading.


I've known Hal for several years. His analysis is usually on target. I look forward to reading his report. Thanks for providing the link.
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Friday, September 11, 2009

Did Kennedy's Illness Prevent EFCA Passage?

That seems to be what Senator Harkin was saying in yesterday's report in The Hill,Harkin: Kennedy’s illness stopped card-check vote back in July. According to the story, Harkin had an agreement supported by organized labor and with Kennedy would have had the 60 votes, but Kennedy was too ill to come to capital hill to vote.

The details of that agreement according to Harkin: "I will not say because it was closely held, it never leaked out and it still hasn’t." No kidding.

That EFCA was ever that close to actual passage would be a shocker. While I obviously don't know, something about it just does not ring true. And I am not the only one who wonders, Card Check: Harkin Then, Harkin Now.

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