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Ex-Employer Wants Me Back???
Old 05-06-2011, 08:59 PM   #1
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Ex-Employer Wants Me Back???

My old employer is getting sued on a project I managed from about 2003 to 2007. The project was taken away from me for reasons too complicated to get into here, but it was not for performance issues. Others have managed the project since and it is still under development. Since I was the project manager for those years, they want me to come back and fill the Deputy Attorney General in on some facts. I don't know how long this might take or the level of my involvement. I have a couple of questions and I'm looking for general answers or opinions knowing you all can't know all the specifics.

It's my feeling that if they want me to provide them with information in preparation for a lawsuit, they need to compensate me. This is not to act as a witness or even part of discovery as far as I know. Am I wrong?

As a witness, especially if called by my former employer, would I be normally compensated? Never been called as a witness.

I want nothing to do with this, but I realize I could be subpoenaed for the actual trial. I kind of feel like I'm being greedy, but I'm retired and I don't want to spend my time and money helping out my old employer without any compensation. So what do ya'all think?
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Old 05-06-2011, 09:05 PM   #2
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I would let sleeping dogs lie and just enjoy your retirement.

If you get back in the saddle and trouble comes, the folks after you won't care that you've been retired and now just back.
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Old 05-06-2011, 09:24 PM   #3
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I'm with ya on that, but they are actively trying to get me to speak with them. I don't want too, believe me. I left that behind and have no desire to help them in any manner. Being it's a lawsuit, I may not have any choice.
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Old 05-06-2011, 09:59 PM   #4
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I would run the other way. It seems like you might be getting into some really nasty stuff if you go back. I think that bringing you back has some hidden agenda and you might be in for a surprise.

Sounds like some one made some bad decisions let them own it.
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Old 05-06-2011, 10:01 PM   #5
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Dan - Your old employer needs you to provide information. If they are asking you to help out, then they certainly can't expect you'd do it out of the kindness of your heart. It's a cost of doing business. I can't really tell by your post if you have a choice in this. Regardless, any legitamate business would/should expect to compensate you for your time. ER or not, I'd try to cooperate, unless you have reason to believe something nasty could come of it...for you.
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Old 05-06-2011, 10:23 PM   #6
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Dan - Your old employer needs you to provide information. If they are asking you to help out, then they certainly can't expect you'd do it out of the kindness of your heart. It's a cost of doing business. I can't really tell by your post if you have a choice in this. Regardless, any legitamate business would/should expect to compensate you for your time. ER or not, I'd try to cooperate, unless you have reason to believe something nasty could come of it...for you.
I don't believe I am required to do this since it is not in a court setting yet. I guess I am not off base expecting to be compensated.

As for the legitimate business aspect, its the state government. In my experience with them, they will resist compensation since I am a retiree, but who knows for sure. We'll see.

The only bad thing that could come of this is that I get drawn into the lawsuit which could drag on for years. This is a multi-billion dollar project and the lawsuit is over the Environmental Impact Statement. Last time they were sued over a project like this it went of for a few years until the parties settled. I don't want this hanging over my head, but I may have no choice if I am subpoenaed.

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I would run the other way. It seems like you might be getting into some really nasty stuff if you go back. I think that bringing you back has some hidden agenda and you might be in for a surprise.

Sounds like some one made some bad decisions let them own it.
Since I was the project manager, decisions were made that have changed the project. I can provide history, but I was not part of the final project as shown in the EIS. Still, these type of lawsuits always involve the way decisions were documented and how they led to the final product. In other words, history.

Thanks for the responses. I know I won't get any specific advice, but its nice to know I'm not way off base in my thinking.
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Old 05-06-2011, 10:29 PM   #7
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In most jurisdictions, you can be be issued a subpoena that would require you to provide sworn testimony at a deposition or at trial. You can also be required to produce any relevant documents that you might have. There is generally no compensation for this testimony and document production. (in federal cases, there is a de mimimis "witness fee" for third-party witnesses (i.e. - not a plaintiff or defendant in the lawsuit))

You are generally not required to assist a former employer in their defense. However, in certain circumstances, former employees will assist a former employer, especially when there is a question as to potential personal liability for whatever happened. It is the price of having the company pay for a lawyer who will also represent your interests. At the very least, you can probably get the company to pay for any travel expenses associated with this assistance. And I don't suppose it would hurt to see if they would provide some hourly compensation for your time.

However, even if the company does agree to provide a lawyer for you, never forget that the company's interests may not necessarily be aligned with yours. At a certain point, they may have an incentive to throw you under the bus. Make sure you protect yourself.

Ultimately, you should consult with your own personal attorney, one who is licensed to practice in your state and who can provide you with specific advice.
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Old 05-06-2011, 10:33 PM   #8
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Where I use to work, when people gets called back as a witness or to be part of a patent issue defense, they are compensated for their time (including travel time) and their travel expenses.

I agree with lowflyer that you should try to cooperate. If you don't, the court may force you to do it anyway.
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Old 05-06-2011, 10:50 PM   #9
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I'd stay as far away from it all as possible. I just doubt that any fees or compensation you could get would compensate for the jeopardy you'd place yourself into by exposing yourself to any claims. I suppose I'm sort of paranoid.
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Old 05-06-2011, 10:55 PM   #10
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Follow gumby's advise and seek your own counsel. My favorite employment law firm does not have representation in NV. In what state is your former employer located?
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Old 05-06-2011, 11:17 PM   #11
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I'm with Gumby and Brat. If you were involved in any way, you could potentially be named in a lawsuit. If your former employer is of a mind to make you a scapegoat, you could be up the creek without a paddle, so you need an expert on your side. Get a lawyer.
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Old 05-06-2011, 11:34 PM   #12
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Follow gumby's advise and seek your own counsel. My favorite employment law firm does not have representation in NV. In what state is your former employer located?
Nevada.

I guess I'll see where this goes and consider the idea of seeking legal advice. I doubt it will get messy, but you never know.
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Old 05-06-2011, 11:40 PM   #13
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Another public agency engineer here, FFN, one who (still) works on transportation projects. And one who has been through some depositions and court testimony on project issues, most recently when a former employer subpoenaed me to a deposition.

While the advice to think about your own legal liabilities is well-meaning, I suspect the chances of any personal liability are extremely small. Those who sue state DOTs regarding EIS matters want to stop a road project, not recover damages from mid-level state employees or retirees.

I think it is very relevant that you have limited experience as a witness. Also, if you've not served on a jury or worked with lawyers preparing a case, that's significant as well. TV shows won't prepare you for trial lawyers. No worse, no better - just different.

I look at your dilemma this way: one option is to wait for a subpoena and be called to give a deposition or to testify at trial. Or you can selectively make yourself available for some pre-trial discussions with your former employer. Since you were a project manager, not an environmental specialist, I think you are correct that the lawyers' interest in talking to you is to help sort out some contradictory history found in the project files or in the memories of current employees,

While giving a deposition is not a hot seat situation as nerve-wracking as the Perry Mason show, it isn't fun either. But it will be much easier if you are a "fact" witness, who merely reports on what happened, or maybe on whether everything went according your agency's "book". It would be much tougher to be an "expert" witness who must testify on how the project history measures up against federal EIS requirements or the NEPA laws.

If it does come down to the point of having to give a deposition, or testifying in a trial, I'd rather know what at least half of the lawyers in the case think about the facts and your piece of the project history.

But there's nothing wrong with playing hard-to-get, for now. I.e. hold out for reimbursement and meetings scheduled at your convenience. Or at least phone interviews instead of meetings.

However, if it becomes clear that telling the whole story of the project's environmental clearances will require your sworn testimony at some point - and the lawyers make it clear that they'll subpoena you if necessary - you'll probably avoid some sleepless nights if you attend meetings to learn about the case beforehand in an informal setting.

Feel free to PM me if you want to discuss some more specifics.
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Old 05-07-2011, 12:11 AM   #14
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I look at your dilemma this way: one option is to wait for a subpoena and be called to give a deposition or to testify at trial. Or you can selectively make yourself available for some pre-trial discussions with your former employer. Since you were a project manager, not an environmental specialist, I think you are correct that the lawyers' interest in talking to you is to help sort out some contradictory history found in the project files or in the memories of current employees.
I think it's easier to be called in by your old employer to give depositions, let alone be compensated, than to be subpoenaed by whoever's filing the lawsuit.

I think it's reasonable to ask your employer whether they're compensating you at your old hourly rate or as an expert witness. That way the debate is "how much", not "if".

While you'd like to be able to phone it in, I suspect they're gonna want everything on video.
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Old 05-07-2011, 06:54 AM   #15
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However, even if the company does agree to provide a lawyer for you, never forget that the company's interests may not necessarily be aligned with yours. At a certain point, they may have an incentive to throw you under the bus. Make sure you protect yourself.

Ultimately, you should consult with your own personal attorney, one who is licensed to practice in your state and who can provide you with specific advice.
+1

It really depends on what the suit is about and why it was filed. Most attorneys charge little or nothing for the initial consultation so seeing one would be worthwhile if for no other reason than to put your mind at rest. You'll learn what your options are and what, if any, liability you may have.

And yes the company should pay you for your time.
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Old 05-07-2011, 09:15 AM   #16
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I don't know about Nevada state retirement, but in Colorado your eligibly for benefits is affected if you work for and are compensated by a local or state employer. It may not apply, but worth considering.
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Old 05-07-2011, 10:55 AM   #17
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No way, no how.... only if I were compelled to do so by law or as self defense... I would not do it. Period!
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Old 05-07-2011, 11:27 AM   #18
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If company is being sued, all employees are covered by the company's insurance. I think that company wants you back as witness as an employee rather than as ex-employee due to simple fact that company has to pay you for legal fees as ex-employee verses insurance law firm being paid by the company's insurance.

I would definitely look into getting employee compensation for duration of the case. Otherwise, you'll be force to participate without compensation. Try to all the details from your employer.
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Old 05-07-2011, 11:44 AM   #19
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I don't know about Nevada state retirement, but in Colorado your eligibly for benefits is affected if you work for and are compensated by a local or state employer. It may not apply, but worth considering.
Yes, those rules exist but there are ways around it. If an agency can prove there is no other option they can wave rules. Also, I could be hired by the project consultant and be paid that way. No rules against that.

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No way, no how.... only if I were compelled to do so by law or as self defense... I would not do it. Period!
That is my gut instinct. I have chosen to leave that life behind. I no longer work in the industry and I will let my engineering license expire this year. I have moved on and do not want to get dragged back in.

As Htown Harry stated, this may be nothing more than filling in a little missing background information or reconciling some conflicting accounts. I am probably overreacting, but one never knows. I guess I will find out Monday morning. Honestly, I suspect it involves right-of-way takes and is being led by a lawyer that is known for chasing projects such as this in Nevada. It may be about money, but more about getting better settlements for property owners who are affected.

I have e-mailed a response insisting I be paid and that I have assurances that even though I retired, the AG will defend me if necessary. We will see. Thanks for the replies, especially Htown Harry. You seemed to have been through what I had managed to avoid in my career and I appreciate the detailed info.
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Old 05-07-2011, 12:42 PM   #20
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I think it's easier to be called in by your old employer to give depositions, let alone be compensated, than to be subpoenaed by whoever's filing the lawsuit.

I think it's reasonable to ask your employer whether they're compensating you at your old hourly rate or as an expert witness. That way the debate is "how much", not "if".

While you'd like to be able to phone it in, I suspect they're gonna want everything on video.
I would set your daily consulting rate at $2500 plus expenses and travel time and let them make the decision.

I did this when my old firm was being sued by T*W and it involved travel 600 miles away. I did not want to do it but I figured if they were willing to pay the big bucks, I would do it. A planned 2 days of testimony became 3 days, but eventually they won so I think they considered the money well-spent.
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