Yesterday, my top associate took the lead in a pre-litigation mediation in an ugly sexual harassment case involving two men. Our client employed a monster as a supervisor, but did the right things once it came to light. But it was evident we were going to pay. Fortunately, the client has insurance, so their risk was the deductible. I had told everyone beforehand that if the other side knew about certain evidence that we had just discovered, the settlement value would be in the $500k range, and people on our end were ready for that reality.
Sure enough, they knew, and the negotiations moved toward that number. My guy is a star, and he got a deal for $400K. The victim has very aggressive lawyers, but both they and their client were very happy to get this much money without having to litigate. Sexual harassment litigation is brutal on the plaintiff, with psych exams and very unpleasant discovery. He also comes from a farmworker community, where whispers of homosexuality can get you beaten or killed. What happens to him if my investigator goes out and starts asking whether they had a consensual relationship, as the scumb-er-perpetrator claimed. As of Jan 1, confidential settlements are banned in harassment cases, and this young man wanted confidentiality in the deal. But it all worked out, and he stood to get the $400K without attorney fees taken out. It was a good deal for him, and both sides thought so. Hell, he deserved compensation, and no one feels bad when insurance companies pay.
EXCEPT! At the last moment, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), whose investigation led to the mediation, decided that they did not agree and told us we couldn’t settle, because they thought he should get $600k, an amount we would have never agreed to pay yesterday. Keep in mind that the victim, represented by qualified and aggressive counsel, decided that HE wanted to take the money now for whatever reasons of his own. He was not duped or trickes or coerced - it was a fair third party mediation. Yet the state told him they will not let him take the money. Yes, this is illegal. The victim’s attorneys are furious, and are planning to join with us to smack down the state. This is why I believe in getting rid of all bureaucracy. This is a god damn civil rights agency preventing an individual from settling his claim for more money than he will ever see in his life with no aggravation. That is a violation of his Constitutional rights. It deprives him of all agency in the remedy for what was done to him.
This is what one-party rule has wrought in California, and why I am looking for a different type of practice for the next phase of my career. This is why I hate paying taxes. This is also why I am delegating these mediations and working behind the scenes - I’ll have another heart attack with this bullshit.