As many of you know, I have represented employees in workplace litigation since 1996. Some would say this practice is tilting at windmills. But tilting is what I do, especially when the injustice is on account of an unbalance of power in the workplace.
I try to keep up with the latest trends and cases around the country involving employment litigation. This morning, I finished reading a 63 page complaint filed in federal court in Michigan by a partner against his large national law firm. The suit was the subject of an article on Above the Law blog, Old White Man Sues Firm, where you can download a copy for yourself. Or you can download it here – Download Carey v. Foley & Lardner LLP
The partner has a 30 year career of representing companies in employment litigation. Almost every employment and discrimination suit I have been counsel in has had someone like him in the case sitting across the table. He is white, male and 57 years old.
He sued his law firm employer for discrimination based on his age, his race and his gender. He also sued for breach of contract, conversion, fraud, and unjust enrichment, among other claims.
I am not judging this guy. He might have a legitimate claim or claims against his employer. I hope he has more evidence than appears likely from his suit. But he might still have legitimate beef. Everyone is entitled to pursue justice for wrongs they believe have been committed against them. That is one of the principles that makes this country work.
However, I read this complaint with a shake of my head, page after page.
Very few of my cases were based on the actions he describes. My cases involved nooses in lockers in the employee dressing room, and patterns and practices of verbal and procedural slights against those with no power or control. My cases involved management who took advantage of pregnancy, or foreign-ness, or age to commit injustices. My cases involved people who chose to fight back, in a timely manner, for real injustices.
And someone just like him sat across the table and lectured me on how frivolous my case was, how my client didn’t deserve the justice they sought, and how my client ought to just buck up and move on. That was before someone just like him threatened my firm, me and my client with a Motion for Sanctions for seeking justice in court.
It was always a power thing. My clients didn’t have it. His law firm and his clients had it.
It is probably too much to expect that this gentleman will approach future cases with a new appreciation of what those without power face when seeking justice for wrongs they believe have been done to them. But I can still hope.