I am being sued for personal injury and back pay after letting one of my workers go. Does he have a case?

by admin on July 11, 2010

I own a lawn service. I just let one of the workers go. In retaliation, he claims he has a case against me and is taking me to court for personal injury and not paying what is owe to him.

Base on the following information provided, does he have a case against me. I live in Louisiana.

1. There was a verbal contract that he will be paid in cash for passing out flyers plus for each referral that leads to regular lawn service. He passed out flyers in early March. Now he says I own him for each call and his friend and dad is a witness.

2. He was bitten by a dog in late March while passing out flyers, but he told me he was alright and didn’t mention about going to the doctor or owing him money for medical visits and pain and suffering.

3. He went to the doctor for poison ivy. He was working for another person who has his own lawn business. I was helping them out and wasn’t paid for the work performed. I gave the weed eater back to the person suing me because I notice a plant that looks like poison ivy, but did not know for sure.

4. After letting him go in early May, he brought this information to my attention. His dad was asking for 0 for the referrals, his 23 year old son asked for 0, but I paid him 0. I paid him more for leads to regular customers. He still claims I owe him more and he did not want to review documentation that shows I only owe him for 0 based on phone records and new customers which are listed on my work schedule. I also asked for his information so I can complete a W9 (I think it is a W9) and a 1099 since he was making over 0 (wasn’t planning on paying him over 0 when he first got started). I had him on a trial basis and never went over details whether he was working as an employee or subcontractor. His friend helped. I paid one than let them split their earnings on their own. So basically, I was treating him like a subcontractor.

Does this person have a case against me? He claims he has a lawyer and is taking me to court. I think he is bluffing because it isn’t worth paying a lawyer for what he is suing me for. If he is bluffing, can I have a case against him for blackmail, harassment and tearing up my equipment by neglecting it?

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{ 5 comments }

Artemis Gwen July 11, 2010 at 2:15 pm

1. Yes. He could potentially have a case against you. My guess would be that he will file in small claims court if he files at all. And the burden of proof will be on him – meaning he will have to provide doctor bills, etc. and he will have to prove that he is an actual employee versus a subcontractor. It’s great that you intend to do the 1099 – if you don’t, you could be looking at some trouble.

2. This is not blackmail or harassment, even if he is "bluffing" about talking to a lawyer. There is no requirement that he be honest about this. Frankly, he might have posted his question on Yahoo Answers and this was the advice he received. Exerting pressure on you to pay him money he thinks you owe him is NOT illegal. If he threatens to kidnap your child, blow up your equipment, etc. – then this rises to the level of blackmail.

3. You do not have a cause of action against him for neglect. You could only win damages against him if he deliberately damaged your property.

4. If you file an action against him, he will counterclaim against you for the medical issues and for the pay he thinks you owe him. If your records are not 100% perfect, he could win something.

Jack R July 11, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Well, you’re probably right about him not having a lawyer. It’s a very small amount of money to hire a lawyer over. However, he could be taking you to small claims court and with the way he is warping it, he has a case. The only thing you can do is gather what you can in terms of any documentation you have on him including his tax information, pay receipts, etc. I would have a lawyer in mind to contact in the chance he is crazy enough to find a lawyer crazy enough to take this. And if that’s the case I would probably just pay him the money since the lawyer would cost that much or more anyway.

Goodluck.

Rachel July 11, 2010 at 2:15 pm

If you didn’t have any formal employee contracts, then most likely he doesn’t have much of a case. With that being said, make sure you research what type of working relationship you had established and what you need to do for tax purposes just in case he decides to take this to court anyway. The last thing you want is the IRS on you for having an employee. Subcontracting and freelancing is what you should be looking into.

jimbo July 11, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Does he have a case? no. Can he be a nuisance? yes. I suggest you pay him what you feel you morally owe him as per your verbal agreement, then just forget it.

EDIT.
I can agree with the dumb clutz that gave me the thumbs down if you want me to. Look at this from a practical point of view. the guy will spend a fortune on lawyers fees and get what?? a few hundred bucks. thats always assuming he has the up front money to hire a lawyer. I can sit here and tell you how he may have a case and I can tell you how to defend the action but it is all a waste of time. This case is not going anywhere. Its going to get unpleasant if you are all local guys, but it will not last. Get on with your business and in future, make sure you get everything, not matter how trivial on paper. As I said before, if you feel you owe something, then you have a moral duty to pay it, but other than that. Forget it.

Drixnot July 11, 2010 at 2:15 pm

the form you need info for is a w-4
http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw4.pdf

call his bluff

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