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An Employment Lawyer’s Reflections this Labor Day Weekend


Although the following thoughts are not really connected to Labor Day, I felt like raising them now.  Attorneys in general, including gentle folk like us employment lawyers (no bias here), are often maligned. A few recent news stories, however, show that there is a need for lawyers to continue to press on.

– Merrill Lynch recently agreed to one of the largest settlements on record for a racial discrimination lawsuit. It agreed to pay $160 million to a group of black brokers. See www.wsj.com/articles/merrill-to-settle-racial-discrimination-suit-for-160m-1377705525

– Allegations of sexual harassment by more than a dozen women led to the resignation of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner. See www.nytimes.com/2013/08/24/us/san-diego-mayor-resigns-in-sexual-harassment-scandal.html

– Enterprise just agreed to pay $7.8 million to settle a class action brought by assistant managers under the Fair Labor Standards Act alleging that they were misclassified as exempt from overtime pay. See www.lexisnexis.com/legalnewsroom/workers-compensation/b/newsheadlines/archive/2013/08/29/enterprise-39-s-7-8m-settlement-approved-in-flsa-row

Two points. First, these are just three examples of instances in which employment lawyers were fighting for victims of discrimination, harassment or violations of employees’ rights. Yet, lawyers are often made fun of and portrayed as greedy, evil creatures (Exhibit A: Devil’s Advocate movie!). Oh well, being poked at must be an occupational hazard.

The second, much more important point I raise with these three examples is this. Some people in our society sometimes delude themselves into thinking that we live in post-racial world and post-sexual harassment society in which employees are always treated fairly and paid their proper wages. Sadly, that is not the case. Fortunately for us, “greedy” employment lawyers, there are plenty of employees who are victims of discrimination, harassment and who are owed wages to keep us busy for a while. Ironically, although you may not believe me when I say it, I would love to be out of business.

By Erick Diaz, Hayber, McKenna & Dinsmore