Is suing after a job loss worth the battle? Begos Brown & Green attorney Daniel Green tackles this thorny problem.
SOUTHPORT, CT, Aug. 1 , 2013 – For those who’ve recently lost their jobs, it’s natural to think their next step should be to file a suit against their former employer. But what are the chances of filing and winning such a suit? And is the effort and cost going to get additional compensation for the loss of the job? According to employment attorney Daniel Green, the facts have to be carefully examined. “I like to think that there is something I can do for all of my clients,” he says. “Sometimes there is enough evidence of discrimination to justify legal action. In other cases, the best advice I can give my client is to move on. It’s not much consolation, but it often saves them years of heartache and costs in disputes they probably won’t win. Most Connecticut workers are ‘at will’ employees. That means they can be legally fired for almost any reason, or for no reason at all, assuming they are not members of certain protected categories and/or there is no employment contract or collective bargaining agreement protecting them.” Green is a partner in the Southport firm of Begos Brown & Green LLP where he chairs the firm’s Employment Practice area.
There are laws protecting people from firings because of discrimination, according to Green. “In Connecticut, it’s illegal for an employer to fire an employee because of her age, race, color, religious creed, sex, marital status, national origin, ancestry, mental disability, mental retardation, learning disability, or physical disability.
Green offers this example: A 62 year old client comes to him after losing her job. “Mary” is scared and well aware of how tough it’s going to be to find another job at her age. She believes she was fired because of her age. What’s particularly upsetting to her is that she has worked for her former employer for many years, has had positive evaluations and has received pay raises every year. From her point of view, it appears to be a case of illegal discrimination, and she wants to sue her former employer. “This looks like an open and shut case of discriminatory firing to the client but believing there has been discrimination and proving it are two different things,” says Green. Rarely is there a smoking gun. Today’s employers are usually sophisticated enough to know not to tell Mary she is being fired because she is old, or gay, or Jewish or Irish. Digging into the background enough can produce some helpful evidence in some cases. As examples, if every employee fired by Mary’s employer over the last five years was over 60 that could be evidence of illegal age discrimination and she might have a discrimination claim.”
If Mary and her attorney believe there’s a viable claim, they should present their evidence to Mary’s employer. “If Mary’s claim is strong, her former employer may agree to a reasonable settlement in order to avoid legal action,” offers Green. “On the other hand, we’ve dealt with employers who are inclined to fight long and hard against these claims. They want to dissuade other employees from filing unjustified claims just to make a quick buck. Sometimes the employee has to be prepared to fight long and hard in order to obtain relief. ”Mary might decide to file a claim with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CCHRO) which will examine the evidence and may perform an investigation. The CCHRO process can take months but if Mary prevails she may receive lost wages and other relief. If Mary is dissatisfied with the CCHRO ruling, she may then elect to file a claim in Court.
Green offers this advice to those considering suing over a firing: “You and your lawyer need to evaluate your situation early in the process. It’s important to be realistic and to determine if your firing was illegal and to plan how you want to handle next steps. Sometimes it’s worth the fight. Sometime it’s best to deal with the heartache and just move on.”
About Begos Brown & Green LLP
Begos Brown & Green LLP is a focused law firm with practices that involve mortgage foreclosure, business and employment law, family law, real estate law and insurance coverage disputes. The firm (previously known as Begos Horgan & Brown) was recognized by the Connecticut Law Tribune as one of the state’s “Dozen Who Made a Difference”, by Corporate Counsel as one of the nation’s “Go To” law firms and by the Commercial Record as one of the state’s best general law firms. The firm has offices in Southport, CT and Bronxville, NY. For more information see www.begoshorgan.com or call (203) 254 -1900.
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