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A.J.
A.J., Employment Lawyer
Category: California Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 4300
Experience:  Licensed to practice law, I have experience in Employment, Appeals, and Landlord/Tenant Law
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We had an employee who alleged harrassment, discrimination,

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We had an employee who alleged harrassment, discrimination, and unpaid wages. She had an attorney. The company investigated the matter thoroughly and determined that there was no basis for harrassment and discrimination and it was just bad blood between the employee and the manager. The company did find that there was some damage owed to her related to unpaid wages so the company offered a settlement money and she said she was going to accept the offer through her attorney. But right before she signs the agreement (we have a standard agreement drafted by an attorney), she fires her own attorney and says she's going to represent herself. Do we have to get an attorney or can we deal with her directly. Also, she's asking to have a meeting with the manager to talk things out before signing the agreement. What should we do?

SavyLawyer :

Hello, and thank you for contacting Just Answer. My name isXXXXX am an employment law professional and I look forward to answering your questions today.

SavyLawyer :

The short answer is, yes, it is probably a good idea to have an attorney represent the company in dealing with this employee, and here is why:

SavyLawyer :

Although it is not strictly necessary to have an attorney prior to litigation (ie someone actually suing), what you are describing is a person who is unreliable and may be a loose canon, as they have already backed out of one deal and fired their own attorney, without any appearance that the attorney did anything wrong. This is often (though not always) the type of person who is going to be very difficult to predict what their next move will be, and so in order to make sure that the company is not doing anything that could open itself up to liability, particularly in meeting directly with this person, an attorney should be present and advising the company.

SavyLawyer :

As I said above, it may not end up being necessary, and this former employee may just take the money and go after meeting with the former supervisor but, given the rather unbalanced approach this person has already taken, and the fact that she has already backed out of a deal brokered in good faith that she agreed to, that should make the company wary and keep legal counsel involved.

Customer:

so it'd be a good idea to have an attorney for our company even though the employee doesn't have an attorney....

SavyLawyer :

Yes. It is always a good idea to have an attorney representing the employer where a former employee has made allegations of a legal nature, particularly where the company is dealing with a former employee that has already backed out of a deal, making it difficult to predict what they will do next (file a charge with the EEOC, the department of labor, or even file suit).

Customer:

not sure it changes the scenario but she still works for us and she says she still wants to continue working for us. so we did think it'd be a good idea to have a meeting between the manager and the employee to talk things out but wasn't sure if we should get an attorney involved.

Customer:

we actually wanted to offer to separate by giving her some money but she doesn't want to leave. and we can't terminate her because of this issue, it'll seem like we're retaliating. no?

SavyLawyer :

Ultimately it will be up to the company whether or not to keep this person employed, but having an attorney present and formulating legal strategy to respond to allegations is always a good idea. It may seem like an unnecessary expense up front, but may help in avoiding unnecessary liability in the future.

SavyLawyer :

Yes, you certainly run the risk of appearing to retaliate, unless there was another entirely unrelated reason that was discussed before this person's allegations. Ultimately, if discussions of letting this person go did not come up until after the allegations, not only will it look like retaliation, it arguably would be retaliation, and again this is why having an attorney to go over how to proceed and to be in on discussions about this employee is important, in order to defend against liability and avoid triggering new liability, such as for retaliation.

Customer:

got it. we'll look for an attorney. thank you.

SavyLawyer :

You are welcome. If you do not have any further questions, please remember to RATE my answer positively so that I can receive credit for my work.

Customer:

oh yes definitely.

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