Pro Se Litigant Wins with Help of Washington Civil Rights Council

Federal Contractor, Fired for Declining Vaccine, Represents Himself and Wins Monetary Award from Employer

Seattle, WA — October 1, 2023. The Washington Civil Rights Council (“WCRC”), a group that Informed Choice WA aligns closely with, brought its longest running pro se lawsuit to a close with a resounding victory. Litigant Patrick Flood, arguing against a team of three lawyers, obtained a significant monetary settlement from his former employer, TechGlobal, Inc.

In September of 2021, TechGlobal announced a new Covid policy for employees, requiring either Covid shots or masks and regular testing. Patrick, who was working on contract to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) at the time, declined all Covid-related measures and was terminated shortly thereafter. Patrick asked TechGlobal to reconsider and served them with a Constructive Legal Notice from WCRC, which pointed out the legal pitfalls of workplace Covid mandates. TechGlobal ignored Patrick and the legal notice he provided.

Craving justice, Patrick decided to file a lawsuit as a pro se litigant (one who represents himself) with the assistance of WCRC.  When Patrick first filed his complaint with the courts, his former employer did not reply, notwithstanding the Washington state legal standard requiring a reply from defense within twenty days. Because of the non-response, the next step for Patrick was to file for a default judgment. A superior court judge finally signed the default order after first making Patrick jump through a number of hoops.

However, victory was short-lived when TechGlobal engaged at the eleventh hour, with a request to the judge to vacate the default order. Their sad story to the court was that somehow the emails pertaining to the case had been “overlooked.” Laughably, the judge accepted the “dog-ate-the-homework” story, vacating the judgment, but he also directed that TechGlobal should compensate Patrick for all the time and effort Patrick had spent in pursuing the original judgment.  

After the default was vacated, the case was active again. WCRC coached Patrick every step of the way as he worked his way through discovery and depositions. A highlight from the discovery phase was an expert’s opinion, paid for by TechGlobal, that Patrick had not “conducted a diligent and motivated job search effort.” Although there were only a few days left before the closing of discovery (submission of all evidence), Patrick was able to craft and submit a potent response, effectively neutralizing all of the expert’s claims.

With discovery concluded, TechGlobal now knew they were facing a legitimate challenge in Patrick, supported by WCRC, and they finally decided to negotiate, with the help of a mediator. During mediation, Patrick represented himself with WCRC’s Dan Webster present for support. On the other side, TechGlobal was represented by three attorneys, an insurance manager and a company manager. Two against five!

Mediation lasted over three hours. TechGlobal tried every technique to obfuscate the matter. They tried to claim that Patrick did not have sincere religious beliefs, and then tried ad hominem attacks, labeling Patrick an “anti-vaxxer.” At one point, the employer even argued that informed consent laws didn’t apply to them since they were not a medical establishment. Patrick pointed out the absurdity of this argument since they were clearly practicing medicine without a license.

Patrick refused to get rattled and kept bringing the discussion back to the only thing that really mattered—the fact that TechGlobal’s Covid policy itself, the one that caused his firing, was flawed and illegal. First, the policy amounted to a unilateral change of an employment contract without his consent. Secondly, for its enforcement, the policy relied on Patrick to volunteer his medical information, which violated his right to privacy. Finally, the employer had no right to impose experimental medicines as a condition of employment.

Once TechGlobal ran out of distractions, its lawyers made a plea for mercy on the basis that “everybody thought there was a deadly virus going around at the time, and TechGlobal was afraid to jeopardize its federal contract.” Patrick calmly reminded them that every layer in our society is expected to follow the law, even if they’re being pressured from above. After all, as an employee, Patrick himself took the time to learn the law, and he had even taken the extra step of notifying his then-employer about the law, using WCRC’s Constructive Legal Notice. TechGlobal had ignored Patrick early on at its peril.  Now, the mediator looked at the notice and agreed that it clearly spelled out the legal liability of TechGlobal’s Covid policy used to terminate Patrick’s employment.

After three hours, the employer agreed to pay Patrick for lost wages and for emotional distress and other general damages. Although we are not at liberty to share the exact dollar amount of the award, let’s just say that Patrick was satisfied. Patrick feels vindicated, and the sum will allow him to move on from the distressing experience of a wrongful termination. As a pro se litigant, it is a wonderful bonus that Patrick saved himself the typical legal expenses.

Once agreement was reached, the mediator told Patrick he was genuinely impressed as he had never seen a pro se litigant do so well and be so well prepared. What welcome acknowledgement for Patrick and the WCRC crew after so many months pursuing the case, wondering if justice was even achievable in the Covid-crazed political environment of the last few years.

A parting question from Patrick to the mediator was whether the mediator had ever handled a case in which an employer was trying to impose an experimental medicine on an employee. The mediator paused before acknowledging humbly, “Actually, it’s a first.”

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