For the everyday person, it’s very difficult to understand the complexities of the American legal process and employment law. Consequently, this makes many people afraid to pursue legal action, even when they’ve clearly experienced an injustice. This makes it all too easy for the wrong employer to take advantage of and discriminate against an employee. Therefore, it’s critical for workers to understand what it takes to file a case and how involved they have to be. To help you better understand the law and hold employers accountable, let’s look at how long workplace discrimination cases take to settle and what the overall process involves.
When an employer fires you for reasons that violate your employment contract, public policy, or discrimination law, it is wrongful termination. To put it in simpler terms, an employer cannot fire you simply because of your race, religion, ethnicity, sexuality, gender identity, disability, pregnancy status, or veteran status.
Alternatively, say your employment contract states that your employer must notify you two weeks before your termination. However, they terminate you the same day and don’t allow you to return without a valid reason, that is also wrongful termination in the eyes of the law.
Before you can file a lawsuit, you must report your claim to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If they find evidence to support your claim, they will give you permission to sue. At this point, you should speak with a wrongful termination lawyer, as they will help you draft the claim and will know where to file it. For example, a wrongful termination claim that involves a discrimination case may be filed in a state or federal court.
Unfortunately, there is a time limit that dictates how long you have to file a claim if you want to preserve your right to sue. Generally speaking, you have 180 calendar days to file a claim with the EEOC. However, if there is a local or state law that prohibits the same offense you intend to sue for, the deadline can extend to 300 calendar days.
After the EEOC files your charge, they will then send a notice of the charge to your employer within 10 days. From this point forward, it can go one of two ways. Occasionally, the EEOC will ask you and the employer if you want to go through the mediation process. If one or both parties do not wish to do so, then the EEOC will begin a formal investigation.
EEOC investigations take about 10 months on average, as the process is very thorough. However, the mediation process takes about three months to complete, which is why many wrongful termination claims end in mediation.
If the EEOC finds reasonable cause to believe a violation occurred, they will send you a Letter of Determination. However, if the EEOC completes the investigation process and finds no evidence that a violation occurred, they will send you what is called a Dismissal and Notice of Rights. This means that you still have the right to sue, but you must do so within 90 days from the date you received the notice.
If neither party wishes to mediate the issue with the EEOC, then your case will go to court. However, keep in mind that even though your employer may not wish to settle with you initially, they may try to do so later. Alternatively, they may try to get your case thrown out altogether. Partner with a wrongful termination lawyer to determine the best strategies for proceeding. That said, below are the stages a wrongful termination case goes through.
Once you have permission from the EEOC to file a lawsuit, they will reach out to your employer. They will draft and send a complaint that describes the facts of the case. At this point, you become the plaintiff. In general, your employer has 30 to 60 days to respond.
At this point, you (the plaintiff) and your employer (the defendant) will enter the discovery period. The discovery period is the time when your legal representative and the defendant’s legal representative find the facts. This is broken down into two main components: written discovery and depositions.
Written discovery includes requesting specific documents that are relevant to the case. Your lawyer may also write questions to send to the opposing lawyer that they must answer.
Depositions are oral testimonies in which your lawyer will ask relevant parties certain questions. A stenographer will write down everything that participants say during depositions.
The entire discovery process can take some time. However, judges have a lot of cases to handle, so they typically won’t allow the discovery period to extend past seven months.
After the discovery period, your employer may file a motion for summary judgment or attempt mediation. Motion for summary judgment is your employer’s way of attempting to throw out the case before it goes to court, which you can accept. Typically, this occurs when both parties agree on the facts but don’t want to go to court for a dispute. Your employer can also attempt mediation again, which you are within your full rights to deny or accept. Either of these motions can make your case take longer, and you typically have 30 days to respond to the motion.
When the court goes to trial, the speed of the process may surprise you. Remember, judges have other cases to get to, and they usually won’t allow trials to go on for too long. Some cases can take as few as three to four days to settle and often won’t extend past a week.
So how long does it take for discrimination cases to settle? Ultimately, the answer is that it varies. Depending on the amount of evidence and how willing or unwilling your employer is to go to court, it can take anywhere from a few months to a few years.
However, the sooner you contact an unlawful termination lawyer, the faster you can gather evidence and develop strategies to counter the moves your employer may make. That is exactly what the Law Firm of Tamara N Holder can do for you. With our dedication and legal expertise, we can work with you to ensure the entire process goes as smoothly as possible, so you can receive the legal representation you deserve.