In the five plus years of this blog, it’s rare to find topics that I haven’t covered, at least minimally.

One such topic, though, is the notion of “mitigation of damages”.  It is a concept found in lots of cases, but it has particular importance in employment discrimination cases.

An employee who claims he (or she) was wrongfully terminated because of his age, for example, cannot sit by and collect damages if he wins an age discrimination lawsuit. Rather, he must try to mitigate his damages, typically by conducting a job search to find comparable work.

Put another way, if a employee is laid off on a Monday, but is hired by a new employer on Tuesday for the same salary, the employee probably hasn’t suffered any real damages.

Last week, a federal court in Connecticut was confronted with the question of whether an expert can testify about a terminated employee’s failed job search and to what extent.

In Castelluccio v. IBM (download here), the employer wanted an expert to testify that the terminated employee had “not conducted a diligent pursuit of full-time, permanent employment opportunities to find a job.”

The court ruled, in essence, not so fast.  The expert cannot testify that the employee did not conduct a “diligent” job search because that is an “ultimate question in this case which is for the jury to decide.” He is also precluded from testifying that the plaintiff should have found comparable employment within 9-18 months, because it is not “reliable.”

But the expert can testify about the job search itself, including the “nature and degree of efforts which typify an average or successful job search…and how [the plaintiff’s[ efforts compare to what are typical — or successful efforts.”

Thus, testimony that compares the plaintiff’s job search efforts to the industry standard is permissible, so long as it doesn’t go beyond that.

What is also interesting about the case is that another federal court 12 years earlier, had placed the same limits on the testimony by the same expert.

For employers, the case is a useful example of what type of evidence is required of a terminated employee to mitigate his damages, and what type of testimony can be elicited by an expert to rebut that evidence.

At a minimum, employers faced with a termination claim should consider whether mitigation of damages will be a viable defense that may cut off damages at some point.

My thanks to the Human Resource Association of Greater New Haven for the invitation to speak to that group last week on the topic of social media and employment law.  HRAGNH is an affiliate of SHRM and with nearly 60 attendees, we had a packed house for the event.

When I’ve given such talks in the past, I’ve always been a little disappointed that more people aren’t using social networking tools for their job searches or for recruiting talent.

But I had no such disappointment here — I’d estimate that about 90 percent of the crowd was already using LinkedIn and Facebook for business or personal use.  (Twitter trailed behind considerably and just one brave soul was using Google Wave). 

In fact, in my conversations with attendees, I was struck by the consistent two-fold message that recruiters and human resources professionals conveyed about social networking sites.

First, if you’re a job seeker and aren’t on LinkedIn, you might as well be invisible because you aren’t going to pop up when companies are looking for candidates.

And for employers, if you don’t have an active online social media presence and aren’t using LinkedIn to find candidates, you might as well be invisible because you don’t exist to many qualified job seekers who are looking for companies that understand technology and are utilizing it to gain a competitive advantage. And you aren’t going to be finding talent that can help your company.  

Several attendees were quick to note that some companies still needed some convincing about the utility of using social media for human resources purposes.  For example, many of them are fearful of the use of LinkedIn Recommendations. 

In tomorrow’s post, I’ll discuss the use of LinkedIn recommendations further and take a fresh look at the subject that I covered over the summer

in the meantime, the informal survey of HRA members shows that social networking has not only made inroads, but has definitely moved towards the mainstream.