Wrongful termination cases can arise from many different situations. When filing a lawsuit for wrongful termination, your reasoning doesn't have to be limited to discrimination based on sex, gender, medical condition, or age. Often, these cases arise due to perceived revenge from the rejection of advances, enforcing your rights as an employee, and more.
If you believe you've been a victim, here's what to expect when filing a wrongful termination lawsuit to help you prepare.
It is vital for you to contact or hire a lawyer as soon as you believe that you've been a victim of a wrongful termination case. You can do so if you feel like you've been let go due to discrimination, harassment, or retaliation. In addition, it is best you review the terms and conditions of your initial contract. While a lawyer will be able to tell you if your case holds weight, you want to review your contract for specificities or vagueness that may have led to your termination.
In some cases, employees may not know the ins and outs of their contract, and your employer may have specific reasons that you weren't aware you signed to. Alternatively, if a rule in your contract is too vague, this can be a critical cornerstone in building your case.
So, take a moment to review your federal and state rights as well as what was outlined in your employee contract. Understanding your rights, terms, and conditions will make you more knowledgeable and give you confidence if you decide to contact a lawyer.
Ideally, you've chosen a lawyer who specializes in wrongful terminations and employee rights cases. Don't be afraid to ask your lawyer what their specialty is, as well as their success rate. You want a lawyer that will represent you to the best of their ability, so vetting different lawyers is your first step.
When you decide on a lawyer, they’ll perform a case evaluation. You’ll need to bring the police report, eyewitness contact information, medical papers, and any photos or videos, if applicable.
During your first meeting with your lawyer, the attorney will ask you a list of questions. This is to ensure that your case holds enough weight for it to go to court. They will ask you what happened, as well as where and why, so you may want to write down as many details as you can. Ideally, you would do so directly after the incident, but don't panic if you didn't. Just write down what you remember as soon as you can so you can keep your facts and memories as clear, concise, and accurate as possible.
If the attorney determines you have a solid case that warrants further investigation, you don't have to decide that you want to pursue the case immediately. The statute of limitations vary by state, so you have time to choose whether or not you wish to continue.
Pre-litigation is the phase before the filing of a lawsuit. This includes the gathering of all evidence and information relevant to your claim.
This is the most critical time period, as it’s when you'll compile evidence. Because of this, you'll want to hire a lawyer first and foremost to avoid any muddling of critical proof. Next, you'll want to gather any electronic communication, memos, termination notices, schedules, pay stubs, and evaluations to help you build a case. Again, hiring a lawyer from the beginning will help you gather everything you can. Afterward, your lawyer will contact your employer, stating the facts and possible legal claims you'll pursue.
At that point, your employer may offer to settle outside of court, but it is entirely up to you whether you want to accept that form of compensation.
Cost is one of the main reasons employers may ask to settle out of court. Not only can it be a significant cost for them, but they know it can be expensive for you too. While most lawyers operate on a contingency policy, which means only receiving payment if you win, not every lawyer does. And even if they don't operate on this policy, travel fees, filing fees, and copying charges may be relevant. Some people accept the out-of-court compensation fee if they don't feel like a lawsuit is worth it.
However, you should retain your lawyer if you choose to accept this form of settlement. If your employer is willing, you can negotiate compensation based on emotional distress, lost wages, and damages. This way, you can get the compensation you feel you deserve out of court. On the other hand, if your employer doesn't comply, you can continue to take the case to court.
With or without a contingency fee, a lawyer for a wrongful termination case may go up to about $14,000. It is important to keep in mind that an ex-employer may use this information against you to strong-arm you out of court and out of your compensation. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide whether you can afford it and whether you should continue the case.
Before you've officially filed your case and after you've hired your lawyer, you'll have to contact the EEOC, as they will carry out the investigation. Because of this, the charging process can take up to 180 days or longer to complete. After that, the case can take up to a year in court to be completed. So, in total, the minimum amount of time it takes to charge your employer and reach a settlement can take a year and a half, and it can even go beyond two years.
In addition, if it is found in the investigation that this is a criminal case, it will take even longer. While a civil and criminal case can occur simultaneously, you have to be dedicated to attending meetings and depositions.
This is another reason why employers may try to convince you to settle out of court. Not everyone has the dedication to pursue a case after they're informed of the time it will take. People have jobs, children, and other responsibilities they need to put first, and an employer knows this and will use it to persuade you to settle. Because of this, few wrongful termination cases end up going to trial, and only 5 to 25 percent of wrongful termination cases are successful.
Typically, a wrongful termination case settlement can be anywhere between $5,000 to $100,000, with the median being $40,000. This settlement will take into account wage loss, emotional distress, medical expenses, attorney fees, and more.
If the court determines that the offender's actions are especially heinous, they may require an employer to pay for punitive damages. Punitive damages are penalties used to ensure that the offender will not commit this act to others.
If your lawyer operates on a contingency fee, they will receive 30 to 40% of your settlement. However, this is not a catch-all number, so be sure to discuss what your lawyer's contingency rates are long beforehand.
Now that you know what to expect when filing a wrongful termination lawsuit, you know what it takes to build a successful case. So, if you feel that you've been wrongfully terminated, contact a wrongful termination lawyer today so you can start working on getting the compensation you deserve.