Wednesday, April 04, 2007

To Sue or Not to Sue

I had a stellar, award winning career at the US Postal Service. After sustaining an injury, which the Department of Labor agreed was work related, the USPS refused to provide work that met my doctor's restrictions. They went so far as to invent charges of USPS policy infractions as a reason to terminate my employment.

After appealing to the Union office in Washington, DC, the charges were dropped. The Department of Labor ordered the USPS to either provide work that I was physically able to do or pay to retrain me for a new career that paid a salary comparable to what I was earning at the USPS.

The Department of Labor suggested that I be retrained as a paralegal. That sounded good to me. And, I am currently studying in a certificate program. But, now I am finding out that without a bachelor's degree, plus experience working in a law office, the starting salary will be about $17,000 LESS per year than I was earning when I was terminated
by the USPS.

I have thought about suing the USPS for the difference in salary. What is your advice?

by Susan Ireland

You’ve already been through a lot of stress jumping through bureaucratic hoops. If I were you, I’d try to find a way into my next career with as little delay and hassle as possible.

I’m not a lawyer so I can’t say what your chances are of winning the lawsuit you have in mind. However, I do know that legal battles can be time, energy, and money consuming. Let’s try to put a dollar value on these three assets.

1. Your time: Your lawsuit might easily require you to spend many hours meeting with your lawyer, filling out papers, researching other cases, etc. If you spent that time working a paid position, how much money would you earn? (If you earned $10/hour and worked 40 hours, that would be $400. So, if you spent 40 hours of your personal time on the lawsuit, you would be “spending” $400 worth of your time.)

2. Your energy: Estimate the costs of managing your stress (therapy, doctors, gym membership, etc.). Depending on your situation, that could come to $1,000.

3. Your money: Fees to your lawyer could easily run into the thousands whether you pay your attorney an hourly fee (say, $250/hour) or you pay him on a contingency basis (say, 40% of the amount the court awards you).

So if you’re awarded your hoped-for $17,000, your net gain would be a fraction of that. And if the court awards you less than $17,000, you could even end up with a loss. Is it really worth it?

After months of a legal ordeal, you’d probably feel awful even if you won the money because lawsuits are stressful negative experiences at best. If I were you, I’d try to find a way to make $17,000 more a year in a positive environment that supports my health and well being, rather than battle through something at such emotional and possible financial expense.

I’m sorry you had this unfortunate experience with your previous employer. My advice is to move on. Perhaps you can find a different paralegal job that pays more money. Lucrative Paralegal Jobs says:

Earnings of paralegals and legal assistants vary. Salaries are based on experience, education, training, the type and size of the employing company and the geographic location. In general, paralegals working for large legal firms or in large cities and metropolitan areas usually earn more than those who work within smaller firms or in remote regions. In addition to the salary, many companies offer a system of bonus to paralegals. The average starting salary can be anything around $30,000. Even the lowest paid is close to $26,000, while the top make as much as $60,000 or more.

Maybe you can find a firm that offers a bonus system (as mentioned above) that could increase your current salary $17,000. Best of luck with this challenging situation!

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