Finding HopeIs It Worth It?
Getting fired can be a life-changing, traumatic event, especially when you have devoted blood, sweat, and tears to an organization only to be shown the door, perhaps literally with a cardboard box in hand.
If you are in one of those dark times, you should know that there is hope.
Consider These Success Stories
I don’t want to be a Pollyanna about it, but I have to say that most people who come through our doors go on to something much better than what they had before. Yes, part of that is that they win a judgment or a good settlement (more about that below). But, even more than that, they found some truly unbelievable opportunities that they probably would never have realized had they not mustered up their courage and taken action.
But before I can share some of these examples, let me give you this lawyer disclaimer: these stories are not a guarantee of future performance, and they do not necessarily mean that we can deliver these results to you. You could hire us and lose. It happens. You should also know that in a few instances, unimportant details have been changed to protect client confidentiality. Now, forewarned, read on.
- A high-level executive with 10 years of experience with a large company got a rude surprise when her division got new management and her direct supervisor repeatedly told sexual jokes, sometimes to her in private. It got so bad that she came to our firm. We helped her get out of the company on very favorable terms. She then went to another company and got another nice severance when she raised with the board the fact that her boss demoted her in favor of a woman with whom he was having an affair. (I know what you may be thinking: Oh, this woman is one of those constant complainers. I would think that too, but it is far from accurate. This high-achieving woman would be the last to raise a stink about something. She puts her nose down and works hard.) While on leave, she got pregnant with her first child. After she had the healthy baby, the company that she worked 10 years for was bought by another company that put in new management. I got a call from this former client the other day and she told me that the new company hired her back into her old division at a significantly higher salary.
- A 30-year employee at a large chemical company got the sense that his boss was angling to push him out of his job in favor of someone younger. Far from the litigious type, he resisted hiring a lawyer until he decided that enough was enough. He’d put up with this boss for a decade, so he’d be damned if he would get summarily tossed out because he had gray hair and cost more than someone right out of MBA school. So, he hired a lawyer. After some months of wrangling, the company gave him a year of severance, allowed his pension to vest early, and agreed to provide him with a positive review (even though the boss was seething mad that he’d been outmaneuvered). This man and his wife moved to another location and considered their next step. He enjoyed the freedom and did a lot of fishing. But he wasn’t ready to be put out to pasture. Frankly, while he could retire, he had hoped to keep working into his seventies. After multiple job interviews went nowhere—many without even calling him back to let him know he didn’t get the job—he and his wife began to despair. Then he got a solid offer from a company, though it was in the Midwest—not an area where they wanted to live, if they had their druthers. While that offer was pending, he got another interview with a dream job, in a city right on the beach, in an area where his wife had always dreamed of living. Taking a gamble, he turned down the bird in hand. The interview for the dream job went well. But weeks went by without a word. Eventually, he and his wife assumed that this opportunity was going to end like some of the others, without even so much of a letter saying, “Sorry, we picked someone else.” You know what’s coming next. Out of the blue, he got a call from the company extending an offer. He called his wife to tell her. She was sitting in her car in a shopping center parking lot, despondent, having just bought a bunch of bubble wrap to prepare for another move to some unknown location because their current one-year lease was coming to an end. He asked her, “What are you doing?” And she told him. His response? “How would you like to go live at the beach?” And so they did. I talk to him on occasion, and he sounds like a 25-year-old newlywed. He and his wife are so thrilled with their circumstances. And, get this—his new job started almost one year to the day he quit his old job.
- A woman with years of experience was being mistreated by top-level management. Though she had no desire to leave the job, it became clear that things were not going to work out. She came to our firm and we helped her get out of the job with a good severance. After she left, and while she was looking for another job in the corporate world, she devoted more time to a passion of hers: international travel on aid missions to areas lacking clean water. On one of her trips, she met and became close with an engineer who was developing low-cost water purification systems. With months of planning and hard work, they started their own nonprofit and are publishing a book about their travels and the need for clean water. Happy and motivated, this former client has scrapped for good any plans she had to work the 9 to 5 again.
Like I say, not everyone I work with has the heavens open up after deciding to take the next step to get out of their job or fight back when they’ve been wrongfully fired, but I’ve seen more good come out of those decisions than bad. Attorneys with our firm always give those who work with us or come for a consult our unvarnished opinion. Many times—more times than we like—it is, “Wow, what happened to you is wrong, but it’s probably not illegal. Spending your time on a lawsuit is probably not worth it because you will lose.” If you come to us, you can count on getting our best evaluation of your situation. If you do—or if you’ve gotten an opinion from another attorney—and it’s along these lines, “Hey, you may have something here. We can’t guarantee a win, but you may have some options,” then think about these real-life situations. Sometimes taking the leap can pay off in bigger ways than you can even imagine.
Even if you don’t end up with a new job at the beach or start your own nonprofit, sometimes a plain vanilla win can be nice too. Consider these:
- A woman worked for a university for 10 years with consistently high reviews. Days after announcing her pregnancy, her supervisor complained about her performance and put her on a performance improvement plan with goals that were impossible to meet. The university also offered her a severance as an alternative if she wished to leave. The severance offer was low, providing her less than one week of leave for every year of service. She hired TSLF. One of our attorneys contacted the university and, less than 24 hours later, our client happily accepted a severance offer that was almost double what the university initially offered.
- A multinational company tried to evict a woman and her elderly mother from their apartment after the woman filed a complaint when the apartment management began to refurbish empty apartments with chemicals hazardous to our client’s health. After a two-week trial, TSLF won a verdict in federal court that included a six-figure punitive damages award. The judge also ordered that our client and her mother be able to stay in the apartment for as long as they wished without any rent increase. Sweet justice!
- A woman was in an intolerable situation with her employer. We stepped in as her attorneys while she continued to work at the company. We were able to protect her from some of the workplace abuse. In addition to enjoying the protection, she got great satisfaction out of hearing stories about her boss squirming every time he had to update the board on the ongoing legal action. Eventually, she left for a better job. The company settled with her for $100,000.
- A high-level executive in the publishing industry came to see us after her boss “suggested” that she leave the company. Why? Because she was not getting along with an incompetent co-worker who got where she was because she was sleeping with the CEO. The company offered her a severance. An attorney with TSLF contacted the company and informed its lawyer that, after reviewing her case, we felt that the current severance agreement did not adequately compensate our client for the claims she was releasing. A TSLF attorney arranged for the client to be out on paid administrative leave. (Companies hate that—paying people to pursue their employment rights!) After some table pounding about how the employee had no claim, the company doubled the severance offer—after less than one week! The following week, the client found another, higher-paying job. What was the value of the client’s final settlement? It was $20,000 more than when she walked in our door.
- A woman was being bullied at work and, as a result, she was suffering from depression and anxiety. When she came to us, she had two choices at the company: she could continue to take it or quit. I think you’d agree that these are not great options. An attorney from TSLF contacted the company. During the negotiations, we remained a vital point of contact for the client as she continued to navigate a difficult employment situation. TSLF attorneys put the company on notice that our client was, due to a clinical level of anxiety, covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act and was therefore due accommodations at her job. This was not something that the company wanted to do. It wanted her out (and likely would have forced her out if she had not hired a lawyer). Our client was more than happy to go. The attorney negotiated a severance package worth over $88,000. How much did the client pay TSLF? Just over $7,000.
- A man in his fifties worked for a successful startup that sold specialized computer equipment. Despite doing excellent work, he was shown the door after his boss told him that the company could not promote him and another female employee also over 40. He hired TSLF, and our attorneys contacted the company. It offered nothing. So, TSLF attorneys filed a charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. While the case was pending, our client got an even better job with another company. He then settled with his former company for a lot more than his initial offer of zero.
- With a single case assessment, we’ve also helped many people negotiate for themselves or just better understand all of the legal jargon in a severance agreement. So don’t be worried that the attorney you meet is going to try to talk you into a lawsuit. For some matters, an hour or so is all that you need.
And it’s impossible to put a value on what these folks got from doing something about what was happening to them. The money is nice. In some cases, it’s a necessity. But I bet what most people take from these situations is the feeling they get from knowing that they stood up for themselves and held their employers accountable. And with rare exception, our clients usually go on to better jobs than the one they left.
Now, I don’t want to sugarcoat things. We’ve had people come in for a case assessment only to learn that, after closer review, there is little our attorneys can do to help them.
Be Sure to Keep Your Eyes Open
In addition, it is important to keep in mind that hiring an attorney is not without risk. We have had people end up paying us only to get no monetary return. I can think of one client who came to us after being fired. The company had offered a severance. She came for a case assessment and one of our attorneys thought the company had liability and, for that reason, should offer more severance. The attorney also told her, however, that moving forward against the company entailed risk and that the firm could not guarantee any result. The client said she understood but believed her former company was so risk averse that it would increase the severance offer to avoid the possibility of legal action. That turned out to be very wrong. She retained us and we contacted the company. What did the company do? Its lawyer said, “The company didn’t do anything wrong, and we resent the accusations. We will still offer a severance, but we’re cutting it in half.” Ouch. This happens occasionally. But we were prepared. Our firm had a plan for tightening the screws on the company. But the client decided it wasn’t worth the fight and took the greatly reduced settlement. How did she feel about this? Well, as you can imagine, she would have preferred to have received more severance than less. Still, she understood that she took a chance. Ironically, when we asked her about it, she was fine. She was glad she took the shot and understood that she could have continued to fight but decided that, for her, it was better to move on. She even wrote the attorney who handled her case a glowing review. But the point remains that this is not a no-fail proposition. You could end up paying attorneys’ fees on top of being fired. It happens, if rarely. But we want you to go into this with your eyes wide open.
If you get an offer of representation and have questions about this as you consider moving forward, contact the attorney who handled your assessment. He or she will be candid with you about your chances. If we think you have a good chance of walking away empty-handed, we will tell you. Attorney jokes aside, even when we get paid, it bothers us to no end to lose. We will do all we can to ensure that doesn’t happen.
We don’t offer a case assessment or offer to represent someone if we think the case is a loser. We much prefer happy clients to unhappy ones.
So, how about you? Are you worth the investment?