You have a right to what?

You have a right to what?

The United States is a melting pot of immigrants, and New York City is a good example of this. On a recent trip there an enthusiastic young man who was born in North Africa, spoke 3 languages, was a college student in international relations and was making a living and college tuition making a living and college tuition doing the hard work of driving . people through the Park in a bicycle taxi. He was knowledgeable about the history of the park and was fun and enthusiastic about his work. It was wonderful to meet this young man, who was so happy to be doing work that few Americans would do. And he didn’t act like he was entitled to anything. He pointed out the residences of the rich and famous high in the sky in the buildings surrounding the Park, worth many millions of dollars. It is interesting to note that the park was created and designed by man, sheep grazed in its flat fields, and its original inhabitants were the poorest of New York City who lived in shanty towns.

At some point in life, usually at a young age, each of us learns, through our parents, teachers, friends, or the police, that we don’t have the right to do what we want and get what we want to have. But that doesn’t stop the human species from trying to get what they want and feel entitled to things. The right is a concept shared by all classes of society, although many people feel that it applies only to low-income people who receive some form of government assistance. That is not true. I read the other day that the rich have weathered the last recession better because they didn’t have to rely on their jobs or the equity in their property, the resources of which make up the majority of the average person’s assets. But, in a survey, most of the wealthy felt that they would be even happier if they had more than $5 million in assets. I also read about a top executive of a large company who made $6 million a year, and although he said he was in favor of health care for everyone, and that he had family members who were burdened by large medical expenses, he did not. I don’t think it was fair for him to pay more taxes than people who earned less simply because he earned so much. In other words, for most people, it’s never enough.

The same day I met the tour guide, I spoke with a potential client who, in my opinion, had been discriminated against by his employer in not receiving accommodation when he had a disability. Employment and civil rights clients rarely experience physical injuries on the job, but often experience what I call “psychic” injuries, including emotional distress, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. This is usually due to mental abuse at the hands of supervisors or co-workers, or the effort involved in simply trying to do or keep their job, when someone has decided for one reason or another, that it may have nothing to do with with the person or their work performance, that they have to go. The trauma of having to leave one’s job can be severe. However, this trauma must be balanced against the law in most states, which is that an employee serves at the will of their employer and can be fired at will, but cannot be discriminated against based on specific civil rights laws.

The potential client suggested that he would like a year’s salary, or $50,000, as a settlement because he felt his employer may have violated a civil rights law. He also said that he did not want to go back to his job and that the $50,000 would not be significant to his large and wealthy corporation. I pointed out that, in my wise opinion, $50,000 is not an insignificant amount, and regardless of whether corporations can afford it, the money is not handed out arbitrarily. However, this is a common problem lawyers face: convincing their clients that simply feeling entitled to money is not enough. Sometimes a long, hard and expensive battle must be fought and the client may not always prevail as the legal system has many pitfalls. That is why many attorneys, including myself, include in our fee agreements that clients must accept an offer that I believe is reasonable, and not an amount that they feel they are simply entitled to.

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