My significant other and parent both work at same company, SO parent is about to sue company, now what?
February 16, 2007 11:29 PM   Subscribe

Lawsuit Filter: So my significant other and significant others parent both work for the same company. SO's parent might be suing said company for age discrimination (and has a very good case). SO is worried about being blacklisted and/or targeted. How much should I and SO worry? Could SO also sue if SO is targeted because of the suit or at that point even join the lawsuit? I know (most of you are) not a lawyer but at least point me in the right direction.

I should also mention this is a smaller size company not a major corporation. Everyone knows the relationship.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Employment litigation is extremely stressful for plaintiffs who are continuing to work for the companies they are suing (versus employees who have been fired). This is particularly true in the context of smaller employers. Similarly, in small companies the management often finds litigation to be extremely stressful (as opposed to larger companies, where management may be somewhat familiar with and used to some ongoing litigation).

Aside/clarification: the stress and drama can vary (be greater or less) depending on the scope of the legal action taken/needed. Full-on litigation with depositions and the specter of trial is a very big deal. A somewhat less huge drama is a charge of discrimination with an administrative agency, or a demand letter from a lawyer, followed by some kind of settlement.

Legally, your SO should not be retaliated against for his association with the plaintiffs (his/her parents). But socially, litigation often destroys relationships, particularly in smaller companies. In my opinion, your SO should be prepared for an uncomfortable and possibly rocky ride -- dealing with his/her parents' stress and his/her own stress working for an employer who is freaked out. He/she should think carefully about how to proceed. There's no right answer, but careful thinking is good. If an exit strategy is needed, think that through. If the plan is to stay at the company, think about maintaining relationships -- with parents, with employer -- and how best to do that. And so on. Whatever the plan is, think through how to manage the situation and how to manage the stress of the situation.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 12:02 AM on February 17, 2007

Can't tell you anything legal since I don't know what country you're in, but I bet that if a company is discriminating against its employees because of their age it is also going to be willing to discriminate against them because of their lawsuits.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 12:17 AM on February 17, 2007

If it's difficult for your SO to work somewhere because everyone is so stressed out / distressed / angry, why would your SO want to
1) make things worse by also suing and
2) once they have thus aggravated the situation further, continuing to work there?

I think everyone needs to think carefully about what they want out of the situation. If SO's parent is taking an action that everyone knows will make it difficult for SO to work for the same employer, then SO's parent needs to include that fact in their calculations.

Is this a grand gesture for the cause of for old workers everywhere? Then I guess you can all make that your cause and gladly sacrifice the next five years of your working lives to it, no matter how difficult your employment situations become, because it's all about striking a blow for freedom.

Is it about SO's parent not being financially ready for retirement? There might be different approaches to that problem than poisoning SO's workplace.

Is it about SO's parent being insulted that anyone would think they were old, or being afraid they won't have anything to do if they aren't employed by that particular employer any more?

Is SO's parent railing against the idea that they may have peaked and are now facing a downward slope? It happens to everyone else at some point in their lives. It will happen to me.
posted by kika at 4:07 AM on February 17, 2007

Yes, your SO will be a target. And your SO would probably have good grounds for a suit if they were the target of discrimination based on her familial affiliation, though it would probably be harder to prove than age discrimination.

Keep lots of documentation of interactions before and after. Keep a journal, bcc all email to an external email account, etc.

However, your SO should leave the company. ASAP. The company is treats its employees so poorly that they are getting sued and the SO is worried about the job? Leave now!

I'd recommend the same for the parents as well, though I assume they feel this will be difficult because they won't have seniority at a new job. Thus the potential lawsuit. But still...

Spread the risk. This is a small company that is apparently courting lawsuits. If they go out of business the whole family will be looking for new work.

Suing for discrimination is a losing battle. You can make someone respect you because you sue them. Get a new job with people who will respect you.
posted by Ookseer at 8:45 AM on February 17, 2007

If your state has a "human rights act" or something similar, there is often a provision in such statutes that prohibits a firm from retaliating against an employee for cooperating in the investigation or prosecution of a human rights claim. Such statutes are meant to protect employees who serve as witnesses or provide evidence to a plaintiff.
posted by jayder at 11:03 AM on February 17, 2007

If I were your SO, I'd plan on leaving, and beg my parent to not file the papers until I was working elsewhere.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:41 PM on February 19, 2007

29 U.S.C. 623

(d) Opposition to unlawful practices; participation in investigations, proceedings, or litigation
It shall be unlawful for an employer to discriminate against any of his employees or applicants for employment, for an employment agency to discriminate against any individual, or for a labor organization to discriminate against any member thereof or applicant for membership, because such individual, member or applicant for membership has opposed any practice made unlawful by this section, or because such individual, member or applicant for membership has made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under this chapter.
posted by dios at 5:28 PM on February 19, 2007

And I now see the part about the small company. While they can't retaliate, they can't be forced to pretend like nothing happened. They can make your SO's life hell without running afoul of the retaliation. So, yeah, they aren't allowed legally to effect the terms and conditions of your SO's employment. If they do, then they will have another suit. But in a really small company, the animus is practically unavoidable.
posted by dios at 5:31 PM on February 19, 2007

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