Being lazy when seeking legal help has recently increased the number of people who have been fired. Why is this the case? Because people have been turning to Google for legal advice instead of simply calling an employment law attorney, which, you guessed it, is just as free when it comes to a first consultation, and much less likely to result in an angry confrontation with your boss.
On top of that, the demographics in the United States are changing. Younger people are more likely to do a quick Google search rather than go outside, which means the trend will likely continue into the foreseeable future.
And it’s not just lawyers or employers who are noticing this trend. Anyone who’s watched an episode of House M.D. will remember how the hilariously sarcastic doctor responded to patients who turned to search engines to self-diagnose: like they were idiots. And there’s a reason for that. The online world might be a great source of aggregated data, but the layman is absolutely terrible at figuring out which data are relevant and which are not.
The same thing is happening in employment law.
One employment law attorney told a story about how the factors that determine a worker’s severance pay are complicated, “including age, years of service, remuneration, position, and availability of comparable employment…there is no magic formula.” He went on to describe the dramatic increase in online algorithms that say they can do the work of a lawyer when in fact they don’t even come close.
He continued, “Recently, I met with three different clients, all of whom believed they had been constructively dismissed. Not one of them had. One employer had modified the employee’s hours of work, another the employee’s job duties and another rate of pay. In isolation, these modifications do not necessarily constitute a constructive dismissal.”
The problem, he said, was that his clients had all read the same type of online article that provided the wrong information, or that they had wrongly applied the right information to their own situation. And more people are doing exactly that. To lawyers, it’s beyond aggravating. It means more people are coming through the doors strongly believing in a case that isn’t there.
The people who use these websites as a source of information are less likely to ask an employment lawyer, though; instead, they are routinely waltzing up to their bosses to make a direct confrontation. And the number of people who are terminated for this very reason is on the rise.
At the very least, know the difference between legal severance and illegal constructive dismissal!