One of the things that makes me most proud of the work we do, as plaintiffs’ employment lawyers, is that we routinely stand up for the little guy or gal against the bullies – beating the side that is more staffed, better-funded, and has more documents and witnesses at its ready disposal. What we have on our side, usually, is – we strongly believe – the truth of our claims, the righteousness of our cause, and the important public policies we are seeking to vindicate. We have smart lawyers and sympathetic clients. And, there is one other advantage we have: we will stand by our clients and fight for justice, and to protect their rights, even though sometimes there is no “business” reason for doing so – when it only minimally stands to profit our firm, but is just the right thing to do, to let our clients know we are really on their side, and let the bad guys know that there is no easy escape.
Take, for example, our class action practice. Time and again, we have seen employers challenged with class actions lash out against the courageous workers who brought the claims on behalf of their colleagues, terminating their employment, denying them job opportunities, trying to soil their reputations, conducting intrusive discovery into their lives to distract from the real issues, and even sometimes filing counterclaims against them. Repeatedly, we have beaten back such tactics.
Where our named plaintiffs are terminated from employment, stripped of duties or denied career opportunities they deserved, or have received negative references, we have consistently initiated or amended to add (or threatened to amend to add) an individual retaliation cause of action, and my named plaintiffs have consistently received additional compensation when a matter resolves, for having to endure this reprisal. To be sure, our clients tend to feel better off (particularly after achieving additional compensation) when they have moved on from the employer that was depriving them of earned wages or opportunities to advance, or subjecting them to other unlawful employment practices.
We have sought and obtained a court order prohibiting any informal contact with class members (to prevent bad-mouthing and intimidation), requiring corrective notice to be sent to the entire class. We have repeatedly gotten retaliatory counterclaims against representative plaintiffs dismissed or withdrawn with prejudice. I am confident that such counterclaims, in fact, alone warrant adding independent claims for retaliation under federal and state worker protection laws, though each of our cases has settled before we have even had to assert such causes of action, so far.
We have also sought to quash intrusive discovery aimed (I have felt) at harassing my clients and their favorable witnesses, with mixed results. Despite the uncertain success – given courts’ propensity to be permissive in allowing a wide swath of discovery – I maintain that workers who step forward to assert protected claims (and the witnesses who back them) should not be forced to open up their private lives beyond the scope of the issues they have put into dispute. We have fought, and will fight, to keep out records from other employers, unrelated personal emails, extensive personal medical records, and other such information which, when sought, creates an obvious, intimidating effect on those whose participation in vindicating important public policies we should be encouraging, not chilling.
We have also continued to pursue claims on my clients’ behalf even when employers have sought to hide behind bankruptcy or other declarations of insolvency, behind endless appeals and motions, and other tactics that seek to prevent from getting to the heart of the matter. While chasing an empty pocket does not help anyone, I also do not accept that wrongdoers should find it convenient to hide behind their financial irresponsibility to avoid liability.
Today, for example, we finally received an order on a case against the government where my client has been pursuing her claims literally since the late 1980s. The employer has hoped that – despite its losing decision after decision, and refusing to pay up – my client and I would eventually just disappear. But, she stuck to her guns, and we continued to fight on her behalf. The decision today related to reimbursement of my client’s attorneys’ fees on a fight we waged to get her reimbursed for the extra tax consequences she had to pay, because she won all of her backpay for many years in a lump sum in a single year, instead of getting paid the wages steadily over the years in question. Though several years ago my client finally received compensation for the extra tax burden, when the governmental employer had run out of avenues of appeal, they then refused to reimburse my client for the attorneys’ fees owed in chasing down this result. We were forced to file yet another enforcement action and today, years later, my client won again – forcing the agency to pay her fees yet again. This is wasted taxpayer money because the government has continually made bad choices, failing to own up to wrongdoing that began long ago. I can only hope that all of these victories ultimately teach the government’s officials a lesson, so other workers will not suffer like my client did.
So, employees – know this: if you hire this firm, or another reputable plaintiffs’ employment practice like ours, and you remain a good client, we will represent you and pursue your claims through thick and thin, if that is the right decision for you personally and for your case. And, employers – know this: if you are faced with claims of discrimination, whistleblower retaliation, wage violations, or other unlawful employment practices, then by all means investigate and assert reasonable defenses to the claims. But, if the allegations start to appear corroborated (or even viable), pay up, unless your very business model is at stake and it is a principle you must fight to preserve. If you try to shoot the messenger – by attacking the employee who had the courage to bring these matters to your attention- or try to drown the plaintiffs in endless paper, you will only ultimately increase your exposure and prolong the distraction caused by the case against you.
We stand up for our clients.
If you have suffered discrimination, whistleblower retaliation, wage violations, or other unlawful employment practices, contact Bryan Schwartz Law for an initial consultation today. Nothing in this blog posting is designed to create an attorney-client relationship. This firm cannot represent you unless you have a signed representation agreement with the firm.