5 Ways Employers Make Plaintiffs' Lawyers Very, Very Happy


John Gallagher, a plaintiffs' lawyer, had a good posting last week on TLNT entitled "Can an Employee Be Terminated for Simply Surfing the Internet?"

The point of the article was that, although this seems to be a legitimate ground for termination on its face, it really isn't because everybody surfs the internet at work. Therefore, terminations for this reason make John very happy because he can argue that his client was singled out for a discriminatory or retaliatory reason.

I have to admit that I've never heard of a real-life employer who terminated an employee simply for surfing the internet. In my experience, what they get terminated for is looking at porn on the internet, or gambling on the internet, or doing illegal downloads on the internet -- in other words, they are engaged in some type of "aggravated" internet misconduct that not everyone else does.

Be that as it may. John's post got me thinking about the things that employers do that bring joy to the hearts of plaintiffs' attorneys. I'm going to avoid the blatantly obvious ones, like "telling your subordinate to sleep with you or be fired," because this is a blog for grown-ups. Here are five mistakes that even good employers sometimes make:

5. Having "zero tolerance" for anything. Since I'm going in no particular order, I might as well start by riffing on John's post. You have a "zero-tolerance" rule against internet surfing at work. What, are you kidding? Even the CEO surfs the internet to check his stock prices or to see whether the weather will allow him to take his yacht out this weekend at Martha's Vineyard. A more prudent policy would be to ban excessive, immoral, or illegal use of the internet at work. "Zero tolerance" policies always result in injustices, which in turn result in lawsuits and big jury verdicts or, at least, humiliating news stories. (Remember those little kindergarten boys who got suspended or even expelled for "sexual harassment" when they kissed little girls? Do you want to be the butt of everyone's jokes like those schools were?)

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