Note to self and management: don’t cross HR

In an article written by Justin Scheck and published in the Wall Street Journal on October 30 titled Former Staffers Sue Dell, Alleging Discrimination, Justin describes a recent class action suit filed against Dell. The alleged discrimination claims that women and employees over 40 years of age were treated unfairly. The plaintiffs are seeking $500 Million from Dell. That's one big chunk of change. According to the article, the total number of employees and former employees involved in the class action suit could number in the thousands.

One of the most interesting things about this lawsuit is that a Human Resources Director was one of the driving forces behind this lawsuit. My advice: Don't mess with your own human resources employees – they know the law, and they aren't afraid to use it!

Another interesting tidbit: One of the plaintiffs involved has provided her own performance review to support her claims. It seems her supervisor wrote this boneheaded comment: "You are…breaking into arguable one of the toughest old boy networks in Dell."

Wow! How did that one slip by the Human Resources Department? (Hmmm, maybe it didn't…)

This brings to mind an ominous, but predictable outcome when the economy goes bad: an increase in employee lawsuits! I ran across the following article describing a survey of 350 Law Firms the 2008 Litigation Trends Survey just published by international law firm Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P. Read this article A Bear Market Turns Bullish on Litigation.

The article states: "This year's (2008) survey appears to mark an inflection point for American business, between the end of a prolonged period of prosperity and the start of a period of economic challenge that is likely to fuel litigation over who is to blame and who should pay for the consequences," said Stephen C. Dillard, who chairs Fulbright's global litigation practice.

I worked in HR for two companies that hired me AFTER a law suit hit. (Both were discrimination lawsuits.) One company was out of business within one year, and one lost major market share, because of the fear and recrimination as a result of the lawsuits. Best practices in HR – now more than ever.

Post by Dawn Passaro

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