November 11, 2014
Introduction We are functioning in the capacity of the Assistant Human Resource Manager for Good Grocers, Inc. The job description states that we, as legally astute managers, provide advice to store managers on legal and personal matters. Presently, two situations require advisement. In the first case, a customer fell in the store and their spouse threatened to sue for possible injury. In the second case, an independent contractor is claiming employment status and demanding part-time employee benefits. We are to hear the facts in each case and provide a resolution backed by law.
Situation 1 A woman is observed lying on the ground in the produce section of Good Grocers, Inc. Her husband, naturally upset, is quoted as saying, “She slipped on a banana peel and fell. My wife is the anchorwoman for NEWSNOW, and we are going to sue you!” In his incidence report, the produce manager indicates that a yellow banana peel was indeed lying on top of a ribbed rubber floor mat. He noted that the woman, henceforth known as customer, is wearing five inch heels. She showed no apparent injuries from the fall. Emergency response is called to treat the customer for any unseen injuries, and the manager informed the couple that a company representative will contact them. Determine the best course of action to resolve the dispute. Litigation is the last course of action that companies wish to pursue in a dispute settlement. There are several reasons for avoiding this course of action. First, there are expensive legal fees. Second, excessive stress is inflicted on employees testifying in court. These legal distractions lead to decreased business productivity. Third, the company’s public image can be damaged. Finally, irreparable damage can occur to the company / customer relationship (Bagley, 2013). An alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is always the first option in a settlement. In addition should the case need be tried by bench or jury, it reflects favorably on the company to show that they attempted to settle the dispute outside of court. The most commonly used forms of ADR are negotiation, mediation, and arbitration (Bagley, 2013). Negotiation involves two parties coming to an agreement over a dispute between themselves. Mediation brings a neutral third-party into the conflict that assists the two opposing parties negotiate a solution to the problem. Arbitration also brings neutral parties into the fold. Usually, one-to-three arbitrators are selected. Instead of helping the opposing parties come to a resolution, the arbitrators make the decision for them (Bagley, 2013). Regardless of whether the customer sustained injuries or not, medical expenses need to be compensated for the emergency response call. Ongoing communications with the customer need maintained. That way Good Grocers, Inc. is aware of her condition, and it shows that the company takes an interest in her welfare. Once the extent of the customer’s injuries is determined, the maximum settlement amount should be established. A fair amount is then offered to the customer to settle out of court. This process should be implemented as fast as possible. First, it deters the customer from filing a lawsuit if injury was sustained. Second, it shows that Good Grocers, Inc. takes responsibility and is trying to make amends. Third, it begins the negotiation process. If the customer refuses the offer, either a counter-offer is made, or the resolution process should advance to the next step in seeking a resolution. For the next step, the Arb-Med resolution could best serve the interests of the company. In this process, both the company and the customer present their case to the arbitrator / mediator who determines the amount to be awarded. According to Constance Bagley (2014), “This information is withheld from both parties while they try to settle under mediation. If a settlement amount cannot be agreed upon, then the