Professional Plaintiffs Seek Settlements

May 28, 1999

Professional Plaintiffs Seek Settlements

If an employee sues for sexual harassment, many small companies consider settling to save themselves costly legal fees, whether or not they believe they're at fault. Unfortunately, according to Entrepreneur magazine, a new wave of con artists is counting on such easy payment.

Employment experts call them "chronic suers," employees who job-jump and threaten legal action at each company that employs them, even without reason. It's a growing problem: of the resolved sexual harassment claims filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 1998, 42% were classified as having no reasonable cause, compared to 33% in 1992. Likewise, EEOC determined 70% of racial discrimination claims and 61% of age discrimination claims had no cause in 1998.

Experts suggest screening applicants carefully to prevent hiring a "professional plaintiff." Watch for applicants who change jobs every year or two, listen for brief or vague references from previous employers, let the candidate do much of the talking during the interview and schedule a follow-up interview before you hire. Also make sure you clearly outline your discrimination policies in your employee handbook, and don't be quick to settle claims out of court, especially if the claims seem unfounded. If the case goes to court, the article says, the plaintiff's name will go on public record for future employers to find.

- by Stacey King