Employment Lawsuits: When they are bad, they are really bad.

Employment lawsuits often involve matters such as pay and wrongful terminations.   But some suits are much more compelling than others…even making the Headlines.  Case in point:  Skechers.

Employers sometimes learn the hard way that personalizing a termination can create a slew of bad press and viable legal claims.  What attorney would not want the case where the big-bad-employer appears to pick on the employee even after it’s kicked the employee to the curb?   Those “insult-to-injury” claims are the cases that can really tick off a jury!

With Skechers, the allegations appear to be that it terminated a marketing executive for “allowing” a recently departed employee purchase Skecher shoes with an “employee discount.”   The sin appears to be that the former exec either knew about the post-employment purchase or should have known about it.  As a result, the exec received her pink slip.

One can only imagine what a true audit on the usage of the employee discount would demonstrate…

In any event, the “insult to injury” was that when the exec landed a new job, her reference at Skechers threw her under the bus.  The new job evaporated.

While Skechers may have told the new employer the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, holding its tongue arguably would have been a far more prudent path.  Indeed, many employers have policies that forbid the provision of references or any other information beyond “dates of employment and last job title.”   The reason:  less liability risk.

With the expansion of whistleblower protections, employers must either train its employees on the ramifications of providing opinion-based statements that could be later used as evidence of retaliation by even a former employee.  Some of these anti-retaliation provisions in workplace laws are not only permitting liability to accrue against the employer, but also are permitting individual liability against the “speaker.”

Silence, often, is golden.

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