Thursday, July 7, 2011

Pursuing an ERD Complaint without a Lawyer

One of the odd aspects of being a labor & employment attorney is the fact I represent people who are more often than not unemployed and on a very tight budget yet, for the same reason we all work, I too have to be paid for my time and work. Defense counsel knows this fact and work that to their advantage when they are up against a complainant who is without an attorney (known as a pro se litigant) or dealing with a litigant who has private counsel because they know the complainant probably cannot afford to litigate their case to the fullest extent like the EEOC can with their tremendous resources.

I am often left conflicted and sometimes upset that I cannot help everyone with an employment issue because the potential client either cannot afford representation or the case isn't strong enough at the outset to risk a contingency fee arrangement. However, this does not mean that someone with an Equal Rights Division (ERD) complaint cannot win without an attorney in their complaint--it simply makes it more difficult.

A common area where pro se litigants get stumped and feel over-burdened is when the defense counsel sends out that first round of discovery requests in the form of interrogatories, requests for admissions and/or requests for production. Most calls I get from pro se litigants is around this time and at that point it may make an employment attorney's job more difficult depending on when the hearing is scheduled for. As most people have learned through the Casey Anthony case, evidence, direct or circumstantial, is everything and it's not what you know or believe, it's what you can prove. Discovery is the time to gather up that information and evidence to prevail in an employment discrimination claim.

While I remain highly sympathetic and mindful of the economic reality of people with employment complaints, I still encourage people to do their best to obtain counsel as soon as possible and assist in proving up their case.

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