If you’re reading this article, it’s likely because you believe that you or a loved one has experienced discrimination in some way. At this point, you likely contacted an employment lawyer, worked with them to garner the evidence, finished the pre-litigation process, and filed your case. Now what? If you want to take some of the mystery out of what may happen from here on out, here’s what you should expect after suing for race discrimination.
Once you’ve filed your case in court, meaning you or your lawyer delivered the complaint to the courthouse, you are now the plaintiff, and the person you are suing becomes the defendant. The defendant has about 30 days to respond to said complaint. However, there are opportunities to extend this process, so it may take longer.
At some point, within 30 to 60 days, the defendant will likely try to file a motion requesting that the court throw out the case. There will be some back and forth between parties, with your lawyer and the defendant’s lawyer debating about the law and whether the case holds any water. You will not be there for this court hearing. If you have a solid case and a good lawyer, most of the time, the court denies these motions. If the motion passes, your lawyer should file a notice of appeal to amend the case and keep it in court.
After this, if the motion to amend passes and your case is now in court, both parties’ lawyers will begin to exchange essential information with one another. This step is referred to as “written discovery” and is critical to forming an even playing ground where everyone has access to correct and pertinent information. Your lawyer may request certain documents, depositions, or interrogations.
When a lawyer requests documents, they are demanding physical or digital files that contain pertinent information to your case. A request for deposition is a list of statements that the defendant must confirm or deny. An interrogatory request is a list of questions given to the other party that they must answer truthfully. However, it is important to remember that you, as the plaintiff, may receive these requests as well, and they can include sensitive and personal information. Depending on the law in your area, a lawyer can deny access to certain information that the court does not deem relevant.
You may be familiar with the term deposition. This is when lawyers bring forth witnesses and ask those witnesses questions, under oath, that they must answer truthfully or risk facing perjury charges. Your lawyer will likely depose multiple witnesses, including but not limited to people who saw the act of alleged discrimination, the defendant, and anyone else with relevant information.
Unlike the previous requests for deposition from the defendant, these questions are answered in real-time in the lawyer’s conference room. Remember, like the written discovery process, you will also be deposed and will have to visit the defendant’s attorney’s conference room. Additionally, there will be a court reporter in the room whose job is to write down what everyone says. This allows the court to keep a written record for possible future use. Typically, this process should last no more than a day.
While this process may seem nerve-wracking, remember that your lawyer is there to defend you. All you must do is answer the questions the opposing lawyer asks you, and if you’re telling the truth, this process should be easy. If you face an inappropriate or irrelevant question, a good lawyer will step in, and they may tell you not to answer it.
It’s important to note that in some cases, before your case reaches the mediation phase, the other party may pass a motion of summary judgment. You won’t have much to do with this case other than answer a few questions and read a few documents. Crafting an opposition is very work-intensive for your lawyer, so you must stay in good communication with them. When the defense lawyer proposes a summary judgment motion, it is an attempt to resolve the case before it goes to trial, which is generally good news for the plaintiff. However, this doesn’t always occur, and from there, most cases will move onto the settlement or mediation phase.
The settlement of a case can occur at any of these stages but usually transpires sometime after the depositions. Many discrimination cases end in mediation, and mediation is, in itself, a complex process. Usually, the two parties will sit in the same conference building but in different offices, where a mediator goes back and forth. Usually, this mediator is a retired judge with extensive knowledge in the field the case is in, and the mediator will transfer information and monetary proposals between parties.
At the end of this, the mediator will propose an amount, and if both parties agree, the case is settled. If not, the case continues. The monetary amount of a settlement can vary greatly, but the average amount is usually somewhere between $40,000 to $100,000. If you both settle, you will sign a contract that essentially states, in exchange for the money awarded, you will drop the case.
If mediation does not occur or the two parties fail to agree upon a settlement, the case will move to the trial phase. At this point, your lawyer will begin trial preparations. This includes organizing information, documents, evidence, witnesses, and debate on what should and shouldn’t be excluded in the trial. At some point, your lawyer may enact a mock trial with you to prepare you for the court date. However, as stated previously, the case is open to settling at any time, and many cases end up settling close to the trial date.
Discrimination trials typically take about two to three weeks, so the court date will only refer to the date the trial beings. Additionally, your lawyer will question the jury pool to ensure the jury is fit. Once in court, the first thing your lawyer will do is make an opening statement summarizing the evidence that they will discuss. Typically, the plaintiff will go to the stand, where the defense will cross-examine them, and once finished, the defense will lay out their case. Once both parties finish examining and laying out the evidence, they will make a closing statement to summarize their final points.
Afterward, the judge will send the jury to deliberate, and when they return, they will decide whether the plaintiff “wins or loses” the case. Sometimes, one or both parties will file an appeal if they believe that an egregious error occurred during the legal proceedings.
Knowing what you should expect after suing for race discrimination is critical because companies know how long and arduous the litigation process is. They may use that against you to intimidate you into settling for less than you deserve. If you feel like your current lawyer isn’t representing you in the way you deserve, contact racial profiling lawyer Tamara N. Holder for an experienced attorney that cares about you and your case.