Is an Attorney Demand Letter Conditioning Payment of Six Figure Settlement Extortion?

You state, "We just received a letter from an attorney representing one of our current/former employees/contractors/workers claiming violations of employment laws and demands that we pay a six figure settlement in seven days or he will file a civil lawsuit. Is this extortion?"

The California Courts of Appeal have generally concluded that an attorney’s pre-litigation communications — including demand letters — constitute extortion if they threaten to file a criminal complaint or otherwise report criminal activities to government authorities.

But Courts have recognized that threats to file non-sham civil litigation are not extortion under California law, as any conclusion to the contrary would likely violate the First Amendment.

Lisa Sherman
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California Labor & Employment Attorney