A Cautionary Tale, Based On A True Story
Tom and Helen Conway had a live-in housekeeper named Greta, who met a labor lawyer who talked Greta into suing them for unpaid wages and other damages in excess of $1 million. They hired a specialist labor law attorney named Janice Hartman to defend them and they were meeting with Janice for the first time.
Janice told them, “You need to prepare for a long and very difficult time. I will give you all the advice that I can, and I will do my best to help you arrange your affairs to shelter your assets as much as possible.”
“However”, she continued, “after that, you should begin preparing financially and emotionally to experience a significant financial cost from this. Seven figures, almost certainly, in addition to my legal fees. I’m sorry, but there’s just no sugar-coating this. I owe it to you as my clients to be completely straight with you about this.
“But wait a minute,” Tom objected. “Greta did not really work 24×7 for us for all those years. She had lots of personal time off at night and on weekends and we let her take days off whenever she wanted. To tell you the truth, I think she spends most of her time in her room or out in the back yard or in the dining room drinking coffee. I doubt whether she actually worked eight hours per day, with all the downtime that we gave her.”
Janice had heard all this before and knew how to dispose of these efforts to grasp at straws. “Two questions: one, was she free to come and go whenever she wanted, and two, did you keep detailed records of every hour, every day, for the entire eight years, of how many hours she did work and how many she did not work?”
Tom looked chagrined and replied, “Well, no, we expected her to be in the house most of the time because we wanted her to be around when we needed her. And no, we never kept records of what hours she worked on each day because we didn’t know that we need to.”
Their attorney looked at them with genuine regret in her eyes and told them, “Under the circumstances that you just described, the labor laws will say that she worked 24 hours per day, every day of the week, because you have no records that say otherwise, and because she was always expected to be available when you needed her.”
“Well”, said Helen, “at least now we know what to begin preparing for.”
The attorney shook her head in sadness and replied, “Wait. There’s more. The other side is going to do everything they can to put significant pressure on you to settle, and they will take every step they can in order to add stress to your lives. That means that anything is fair game, whether or not it involves threats of lawsuits and legal fees.”
“What else could they do?” replied Tom, almost afraid to ask.
Their attorney responded, “They will notify the IRS and the state tax authorities.”
To be continued…..