This is the truth. <sighs, settles in> Litigation is, at best, a crapshoot.
You can hire the most expensive defense team in town – the lawyers doing the “I mean business” pose on their website – arms crossed, blue steel stare – you know the ones I’m talking about.
You can work for years building your defense (yes, literally years), combing through documents from 1985 and sitting for hours on end in a conference room while your former employee’s lawyer (the one who doesn’t get paid until they either win, or exhaust you into a settlement where you’re willing to throw in naming rights to your first born just to make it all go away) peppers you with questions that barely stop short of asking for your blood type.
You can keep trudging as “a matter of principle” and because “you never did anything wrong,” easing your anxiety about your dwindling life savings with the perfunctory box of “we’re in this together” chocolates your lawyers send you at Christmas.
And when you finally get your moment – your day in court that was postponed 5 times – you could get a judge with an attitude or a jury that doesn’t like what you’re wearing and you lose. No explanation. No re-dos. It’s all over. Just. Like. That.
The blue steel lawyers will tell you that it isn’t true - that a good lawyer can win your case with skill and experience and blah blah blah. But the reality is that most times, an outcome turns on far more factors beyond simply who is right and wrong.
This is litigation. This is what happens when you think that crude jokes are just a part of restaurant culture or that your employees are only “hazing” the new guy and will sort things out for themselves. You may be one of the lucky ones who escapes the industry unscathed, never to find yourself with your name on the wrong end of the “v.” in Plaintiff v. Defendant. But you also may not.
Sure, it doesn’t always go that way. Sometimes you win. And when you do, believe me, you want to skip to the nearest party store and empty their supply of champagne. (If you can still afford it after you pay your attorneys).
But when the bubbles flatten and the last revelers close the door behind them, you kick through the confetti on the floor and take stock of the last few years: the work, the drudgery, the obscene amounts of money that could have bought you a car, a boat or literally almost anything else, and you ask yourself: Was it worth it? Probably not.
There are no guarantees that you can prevent an employee lawsuit, but there are certainly concrete steps that you can take to seriously decrease the risk. If you want to take those steps, and sip champagne on the boat you might buy with the money you might one day save, well, then I’m your gal.