Posts Tagged ‘Lancaster’

Help Me . . . Help You

Most people probably think that “Show me the money!” is the Jerry McGuire quote that best describes lawyers. But that’s not true. The quote that best describes lawyers is “help me . . . help you.” And there are many things that a client can do to help his or her lawyer in a litigation case. Here are some simple, but effective, considerations for a win-win situation. Doing these four things will make your case more efficient, and success more probable.

1. Preserve Evidence. Your lawyer can only defend and prosecute your case with evidence. Also, the failure to preserve evidence can be used against you. Thus, Rule #1: Preserve Evidence. Start by identifying all the potential locations of evidence: Paper format; electronic devices; servers; cloud/online storage; and third party sources. These should be saved to ensure that evidence is preserved. After identifying the sources of documents, help your lawyer by culling and gathering the documents. It is also useful to specifically identify the documents that you think are most relevant to the case. Likewise, identify all potential witnesses and provide your attorney with the last known contact information.

2. Know you’re objective, and what you’re willing to settle for.  At the beginning of the lawsuit, clarify your objectives. Consider the best-case outcomes; consider the worst-case outcomes. And consider the outcomes that you want to achieve. It is also best to consider what you’re willing to concede (or spend), in order to achieve the desired outcome.

3. Understand Risks. Nothing is certain. Nothing is promised. Nothing is guaranteed. Litigation is unpredictable. At least one major fact or witness will turn out completely different than anticipated. The law can be murky, too. An analogy: Imagine that you own a 2007 Honda CRV with a book value of $10,000. Now, imagine that you park the 2007 Honda CRV on the street with a “For Sale Best Offer” sign. What type of offer might you get? Would it matter if your CRV is sold in Lancaster, or Camp Hill, or Gettysburg, or West Chester? The book value might be $10,000; but the reality is that it will be sold on a specific day, at a specific location, with a specific buyer. You might get $10,000 exactly, but probably not. Likewise, the legal books might say that your dispute should be determined one way or another. But the reality is that it will depend on the specific facts of your case, with a specific judge or jury, in a specific location. Just like the sale of the CRV – litigation is not an exact formula.

4. Understand Negotiated Settlement. To avoid unpredictability, and to achieve finality, settlements are wise. But, to get something, you need to give something.

What’s Happening Now . . .

7.5 % Increase

  • Through July 2016, spending on private construction is up 7.5%, compared to 2015.
  • Spending on public construction is up 0.2%.
  • Total construction spending is up 5.6%.
  • Residential construction spending is up 6.5%.
  • Non-residential private construction spending is up 5.1%.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, July 2016 Construction at $1,153.2 Billion Annual Rate (Sep. 1, 2016).

This article is authored by attorney Jeffrey C. Bright and is intended for educational purposes and to give you general information and a general understanding of the law only, not to provide specific legal advice.  Any particular questions should be directed to your legal counsel or, if you do not have one, please feel free to contact us.

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In the recent case of Hall v. Chicago the Seven Circuit found that a female plumber, (sometimes referred to as “Hall” by the author of this blog and allegedly referred to as “that woman” by her supervisor), has a triable hostile work environment claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 based on incidents which viewed in isolation may seem relatively minor, but when viewed in their totality the court deemed sufficiently pervasive to make out a hostile work environment claim.

Hall or “that woman” was a female plumber for the City of Chicago and the only woman, aside from a secretary, in her division.  Hall claimed that that her male supervisor isolated her from coworkers, assigned her menial work, and subjected her to physically aggressive comments.  Specifically, she alleged that she was treated as the division pariah, undeserving of human interaction, that she was given menial tasks such as alphabetizing and sorting the same files and watching videotape footage that had already been reviewed.  The allegedly aggressive comments included her boss saying that he: “ought to slap that woman sitting out there,” “I could slap that woman and get a promotion” and “I ought to go postal on that woman.”

At the trial level, the court granted summary judgment in favor of the City of Chicago, but on appeal, the Seventh Circuit found that although Hall’s claims would not individually be considered severe or pervasive harassment under Title VII, a reasonable jury could view them together as creating a hostile work environment.  The appeals court also found that Hall established a triable factual dispute about whether her supervisor’s alleged harassment was based on her sex, but the court admitted this was a close call.

Interestingly, the court acknowledged that while Hall’s work may have been “unpleasant, boring, and unnecessary, that can be said of much work and there is no right to enjoyable work or to communicate with coworkers.  However, the court found that when forced to look at the totality of the circumstances, incidents which viewed in isolation as relatively minor, that consistently or systematically burden women throughout their employment are sufficiently pervasive to make out a hostile work environment claim.  The court found that in Hall’s case, her supervisor not only assigned her menial work, but he purportedly isolated her from co-workers, subjected her to verbal outburst, and physically bumped her on occasion.

As for Hall’s claim that the harassment was sex based, the court said it was a close call.  The court referenced the supervisor’s alleged comments and noted that rarely does one say that they are going to “slap a male” and to the extent that ambiguity remains, the supervisor attached “that woman” to the end of the sentence permitting a juror to conclude Hall’s gender was one factor leading to the outburst.  However, the court commented that not all sex-specific comments are evidenced of animus based on sex.  “Where a comment crosses the line from gender specific to evidencing gender animus is blurry and depends on factual context.”  Although the court viewed the supervisor’s use of “that woman” as indistinct from the use of “she,” and therefore not evidence of gender-based animus, the court felt that a jury could conclude that the comments evidenced gender animus.

The takeaway:  train supervisors to avoid phrases such as “that woman” which may have undertones of discrimination.

This article is authored by attorney Shannon O. Young and is intended for educational purposes and to give you general information and a general understanding of the law only, not to provide specific legal advice. Any particular questions should be directed to your legal counsel or, if you do not have one, please feel free to contact us.


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