If you’re a worker who is pursuing (or thinking about pursuing) an employment-law complaint, you may have ideas about the monetary value your case is worth. Unfortunately, workers’ own case valuations are usually wrong. Very wrong, in fact.
Workers often come up with wrong valuations because they rely on factors that are important to the workers- such as the obviousness of a particular lie an employer told- but that are often unimportant within legal forums. For example, an employer is legally allowed to tell many kinds of lies and make many kinds of wrong decisions. Only certain lies and wrongs are legally actionable. You’re unlikely to know which is which unless you’re an employment attorney or repeatedly deal with the laws and legal forums at issue. Otherwise, you have no true framework or basis for assessing your own case’s value.
As an employee rights attorney, my sense of a case’s value is influenced by many factors, both legal and practical. These factors include:
- The net income a worker has lost, or reasonably stands to lose, as a result of the employer’s actions;
- The legal claims, if any, that I feel are available to the worker, and the odds I feel the worker has of winning;
- Extra damages/money that applicable laws could add, if anything, to lost income – based damages;
- The strength of the worker’s evidence (documents, witness statements, etc. that support the worker’s version of events and legal claims);
- Whether there is a potential group or class action issue where other workers have been similarly mistreated and the employer could face additional liabilities to those persons;
- The particular legal system and persons (investigators, judges, etc.) likely to be involved, and how those systems have historically or statistically decided similar cases; and
- Practical factors, such as the opposing employer’s financial ability and willingness to make payment toward the potential damages at issue.
Any one of these factors can make a huge difference in my assessment of a case’s value. For example, a worker may have smoking-gun proof of a legal violation by a small employer. But such an employer can be too small- and perhaps owe too much money to too many other people- to be able to pay the worker the value of the wrongdoing and make him or her whole at the end of a lengthy legal proceeding. Through no fault of the worker’s, such a case’s value may be very low.
If it’s important to you to have an informed assessment of your own situation or case’s value, please consider speaking with a competent employee rights attorney, whether it’s me or someone else, to get an assessment you can rely on. If you use a case value assessment to make further decisions or take actions- such as complaining to the employer or legal authority, negotiating a severance, etc.- then it’s particularly important your case value assessment be as informed and accurate as possible.