Where should you turn for employment law counseling? Probably not eHow

This morning, I came across two items in my feed reader that surprised me. One item explained how to negotiate a discrimination settlement, and the other explained how to win an age discrimination lawsuit. The surprising thing was not the topic of these items, but where these items were posted: eHow.

If you're not familiar with the website eHow.com, it is an online knowledge resource offering step-by step instructions on "how to do just about everything". The featured HowTos for October 20 include "How to Get Pet Health Insurance", "How to Survive the First Yoga Class", and an eHow Quick Guide to Marathon Running.

The basic form a "how-to" entry takes is (a) a list of things you'll need, (b) step by step instructions, and (c) a difficulty rating. While this may work for someone looking for help on installing a garage door opener or what to expect from a jiu jitsu class, it hardly seems appropriate for employment law.

The first article instructs the reader how to negotiate a discrimination settlement in five easy steps:

  1. Make sure you have collected and reviewed all the facts regarding your discrimination case;
  2. Connect with your lawyer to discuss your case and possible settlement packages;
  3. Present your case with strong evidence of discrimination;
  4. Request a payment offer from the company, if possible;
  5. Attempt to agree upon a comprehensive and fair settlement amount, if the defendant has agreed to settle.
The "Things You'll Need"? Simple - proof of discrimination, written reports, documents, etc., and possible witnesses. Difficulty rating? "Challenging".

Interestingly, the author's other featured articles include:

  • "What Happens When You Drive with Low Transmission Fluid"
  • "Effects of Radiation on Plant Growth & Development"
  • "How Prostate Problems Affect Pregnancy"
  • "What Are the Causes of Bad Cable TV Reception"

The other article, "How to Win an Age Discrimination Lawsuit", also gives five easy steps and a list of "things You'll Need":

  1. File suit within 90 days of receiving your Right to Sue letter if you are pursuing your claim in Federal Court;
  2. Specifically illustrate in your initial pleading either direct or indirect evidence of the discrimination;
  3. Conduct extensive discovery in support of proving your discrimination claim;
  4. Be open to settlement negotiations;
  5. Go to trial if settlement talks fail.
Things You'll Need: documentation of the discrimination occurring after your 40th birthday, an Equal Opportunity Commission "Right to Sue" letter, qualified counsel representing you or thorough knowledge of all the applicable laws within the jurisdiction and venue of your claim.

These are but two examples of "How To" guides on employment law- there are more on eHow, and I suspect, other sites as well.

I think that one of the greatest things about the time we live in is the accessibility of knowledge. I like to be as informed as possible about the events in my life, and enjoy learning new things about many different topics. I've even used eHow (trying to figure out how to get flystrip glue out of my Savannah kitten's fur - GooGone is the best, by the way).

But a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, and knowledge without wisdom can often result in disaster.  Online guides and other such knowledge repositories will never be an adequate replacement for informed legal counsel and the advice of individuals who are truly experts in their fields.