Wrongful Termination: Why an Apology Could Be Enough

In my experience, most people who sue their employers for discrimination or retaliation are not looking for money. They are looking for justice. They want a wrong to be righted. They want an admission of guilt from the employer, an acknowledgment that it messed up. In short, they want an apology. Unfortunately, an apology is the one thing my clients never get. They might get some money. They might get some self-respect back and some vindication. But those three little words they want to hear so badly — “I am sorry” — will never, ever come. And that’s a shame.

So-called “apology laws” are on the books in 34 states in the medical malpractice area. Under these laws, apologies made by health professionals to injured patients are not admissible in court. This encourages doctors, who are only human after all, to own up to their mistakes and apologize without having a plaintiff’s attorney ram it down their throat at trial. The New York Times reported yesterday that hospitals which have adopted this approach have seen their medical malpractice lawsuits diminish substantially. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/18/us/18apology.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2&hp

This approach would work quite well in employment discrimination and retaliation cases. I recently resolved a whistleblower case largely because the employer owned up and admitted it made a mistake. I was stunned. My client was satisfied. The case got settled. I know a lot of my cases would go the same way if the employers did the right thing and acknowledged their wrongdoing.