Six Short Q & A’s on Saturday


Question 1: Can I have an attorney work on a “percentage-only” fee? I believe I’m working in a hostile environment due to being out on disability. Is this something whereby I must engage an attorney and be fully responsible for payment, or can this be done on percentage of what is gained, since it’s my employer’s inappropriate behavior as the cause?  

Jodie
Mt. Kisco, New York

The Short Answer is “Yes, an attorney might take your case on percentage-only.First, no one “must” hire an attorney. Many local and state agencies exist to help people file their own complaints about employer impropriety. That said, if your case seems like a good case, I believe many attorneys will want to take it, and many of them will likely be willing to do so on a “percentage-only” or “contingency-fee” basis. The question is always this: Will attorneys see it as “good” enough and “large” enough to justify many, many hours of work? If the answer is “yes,” their answer, likewise, will be “yes.” 

Good Luck in “Standing up,”
Al Sklover

 

Question 2: If complaining to HR doesn’t work, what’s next? I’m being discriminated against on my job because of my race, and I’ve also been sexually harassed by men and women. I’ve tried going to my managers and H.R. but the abusers only got a slap on the wrist. Since the racial discrimination and sexual harassment policies do not work, what’s next?

Ann
Jamaica, New York

The Short Answer is “New York State Division of Human Rights (“DHR”). If you have complained about, or objected to, such behavior, and doing so has not put a stop to it, then I suggest you file a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights.

However, please understand that when you do so, it would help if you could show, IN WRITING, such as an email, that you have, in fact, filed a WRITTEN complaint first with your employer. If you’ve only objected using spoken words, HR may say they have no record of your complaint, or your complaint was not detailed enough, or come up with 100 other reasons to defeat your claim. So, first make sure your complaint is in writing, and then file a DHR complaint.

You may get the forms to do so at www.dhr.state.ny.us.

No one deserves abuse, no one,
Al Sklover

Question 3: How should I respond to unprofessional managerial practices? Is there any way to retaliate against unprofessional and petty managerial practices? As a supervisor at a call center, I’ve found the floor manager to be incredibly incompetent as far a written policy. He’s been targeting employees of mine for termination on dubious grounds at best, ultimately for personal reasons. Can I do anything to help protect my employees?   

Edward
Portland, Oregon

The Short Answer is “Try these.” In situations like yours, I often recommend people consider these three things: (a) an anonymous call or email to the company’s Ethics Hotline to report what seems to be unethical, dishonest statements used to unfairly target employees, (b) an anonymous letter to your employer’s CEO, with a copy to the unprofessional floor manager, detailing how the company has lost good employees due to false allegations motivated by personal reasons, and/or (c) if you are prepared for a “fight” with the floor manager, a letter or email from you to the floor manager asking him to stop his unprofessional ways, with a copy to HR and/or the CEO, meant hopefully to deter the floor manager from retaliating against you. Though none of these measures is foolproof, they are each based in one thing you can count on: the floor manager will want to protect his own job, and to do so will likely stop his unprofessional behavior.

Hope that helps,
Al Sklover

Question 4: I filed a police report after my boss assaulted me, but can’t get a copy. Should I hire an attorney? I filed a police report the same day my boss assaulted me. I was told by the police that the most he could be charged with would be Disorderly Conduct. Over the last two months I have tried three times to get a copy of the Police Report, but there’s always a reason they can’t give me a copy, and now I’m getting suspicious. They sound annoyed and irritated when I call. One time they told me that they were not investigating it, because it was not a criminal matter. One time they read what they said was a synopsis of the report to me, but it wasn’t at all what I had said. Should I hire an attorney to get a copy?

Maureen
Lees Summit, Missouri

The Short Answer is “Probably not.” Maureen, the reason I say “Probably Not” is that from my experience as an attorney, I believe there simply is no official Police Report. From what you have written, I think the officer you met with saw what happened to you as not serious enough to justify his or her time, so he or she simply took down some notes, and left it at that. To produce an official “Police Report,” the officer would have had to take his or her notes, type it up, submit it, and indicate what he or she did in response. Giving in such a “Police Report” to superiors would have – in the eyes of the officer – probably only elicited a response like “What are you doing wasting my time with something like this?”

 I am sorry to say it, but I don’t think they took your “complaint” seriously, I don’t think they bothered to prepare an official Report, and I don’t think there is much – or anything – you can do about it.

It’s just how our system works,
Al Sklover

Question 5: Can I be fired for misconduct even though I am in the middle of a PIP? Hi, Alan. I was put on a Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”) and had a 90-day follow up. I met the requirements of the Plan, but they extended it anyway for 60 more days. Then, two days later I was terminated due to a serious complaint from a customer, specifically that I was “Rude and Pushy.” I’m confused. If I met the requirements of the PIP, how can I be terminated? Should I sign a severance agreement given to me, or seek legal advice?

HB
Los Angeles, California

The Short Answer is “Seek legal advice.” Your letter indicates to me that you were fired for something very different than poor performance: that is, misconduct. Poor performance and misconduct are two very different things. No matter how good your performance is, you can always be fired for misconduct. However, I never tell people they should sign a legal document without legal review. I don’t say that to keep lawyers employed, but rather because the legal document could contain things that are very harmful to you. You really must understand an agreement before you sign it. And, it remains possible, too, that your purported “Rude and Pushy” conduct is not true, but merely a fraud to terminate you. By all means, I suggest a legal consultation.

If you’d like to obtain a list of experienced employment attorneys in Los Angeles, simply [click here].

Good luck in going forward,
Al Sklover

Question 6: What determines “defamation of character?” 

Elizabeth
Dobbs Ferry, New York

The Very Short Answer is “(1) A false statement of fact, (2) transmitted to one or more other people, (3) that does harm to a person’s reputation, (4) and is not Opinion, stated in Court, or one of the other exceptions the law provides.”

Hope that helps,
Al Sklover

Got a question? Feel free to submit it for Alan to answer. But please keep it brief and to the point. Questions of over 100 words will not be reviewed. And only one question at a time. If you do submit a question, you agree that Alan’s answers are not legal advice, but only suggestions to consider. Please understand that not all questions can be answered, due to limitations on time and space. Still, we “do our best to do our best.”  

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© 2011 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved. Commercial