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Coyote Ugly retaliation claims can go forward; keeping client meetings under control

Posted Feb 22, 2013 10:05 AM CDT
By Sarah Mui

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Technology & Marketing Law Blog and the Delaware Employment Law Blog took note of a couple of retaliation claims against defendant Coyote Ugly ("that's right—the one from the movie, where hot bartenders dance on the bar," Delaware employment lawyer Molly DiBianca writes) that survived summary judgment. The underlying suit is a Fair Labor Standards Act one concerning allegations of an illegal tip-pooling arrangement.

The first claim involves a post by Coyote Ugly' founder at her Lil Spill blog in which she notes she's being sued by someone who was "terminated for theft."

The second claim involves a Facebook status update by Coyote Ugly's director of operations—posted while he was at an anniversary party at the Coyote Ugly location that another plaintiff in the FLSA case worked at—"Dear God, please don’t let me kill the girl that is suing me ... that is all ..." The Facebook post was taken down within 24 hours, but because the director and that plaintiff were Facebook friends, she saw the update within an hour of its posting.

DiBianca doesn't think either case should have survived summary judgment. In the first case, "the employee had not been an employee for about 16 months at the time of the blog post. Not to mention that the employee was not referenced by name. And not to mention that there was no evidence that the employee hadn't been terminated for theft. The court seems to confuse a statement that the employee committed theft with a statement that she was fired for theft. They're not the same thing, are they?"

In the second case, DiBianca sees lessons for employers. Discourage supervisors from accepting Facebook friend requests from staffers. And don't let staffers check Facebook while on the clock—if that plaintiff hadn't checked Facebook while on the clock, she likely never would have seen the post in question.


Moving things along

What do you do if you have a client who tends to prolong meetings with "conversation that doesn’t advance the ball"? Houston-based law practice management consultant Debra Bruce, logs in some advice at Solo Practice University on how to end meetings with clients at a reasonable time.

"If you work on a flat fee basis and have other business you could be working on, you may sense your profits draining away as the minutes tick by," Bruce writes "Even if you bill on an hourly rate, you don’t want your fees to mount up without a concordant measure of productivity and value."

Lawyers can compile a list of frequently asked questions, post them on their websites and present clients with the list to refer to at a meeting. Lawyers can also send them home with a checklist or explanation of the steps they will be responsible for taking and the documents they will need to provide, she writes. "Knowing that they can peruse the FAQs and checklist later may provide clients with the security they need to wrap up the meeting more quickly."

But this isn't to say lawyers should streamline emotional support out of their practices. "The hand-holding you provide may keep you from being replaced by Legal Zoom in the way that TurboTax usurped the business of many tax preparation services," Bruce writes. "Clients appreciate a lawyer who demonstrates patience and respect for them as they deal with a situation that feels foreign and daunting."


Pope Benedict's resignation: the juridical questions

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Pope Benedict XVI. vipflash / Shutterstock.com.

At In Custodia Legis: Law Librarians of Congress, senior legal information analyst Dante Figueroa posted the first of two posts answering canon law questions related to last week's resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.

To whom does the pope submit his resignation? No one, according to Canon 332 §2. "As the Pontiff has no hierarchical superior within the Church, from the ecclesiological and juridical viewpoints, no acceptance of the Pontiff’s resignation is necessary for the resignation to take effect," Figueroa writes.

What will the pope's title be, once he resigns? Canon law isn't clear, Figueroa writes. But he notes a recent interview in which canon law professor Monsignor Patrick Valdrini says that Benedict will probably assume the title of Emeritus Bishop of Rome.

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