Employment Discrimination Lawsuit Expectations | Florin Gray Law
Employment Discrimination Lawsuit: What to Expect
Both federal and Florida law make it illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee or job applicant on the basis of race, color, age, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or marital status. If an employee or a job applicant thinks that he or she has suffered illegal discrimination, they should consult with one of the knowledgeable employment lawyers at Florin Gray, who can analyze the potential claims. Below, we’ll outline some employment discrimination expectations and what to do if you’ve been mistreated in the workplace.
What are the Stages of an Employment Discrimination Lawsuit?
An employment discrimination lawsuit has several stages; here’s what you can expect:
Before filing any lawsuit, the lawyers at Florin Gray conduct an initial investigation into the claims. This investigation consists of interviews, document examination, and general research on your employer. At this stage, the goal is to amass as much evidence as possible in support of the claims. This process can take time, but it is important for your attorney to find as much information as possible to establish each specific element of employment discrimination that is required by federal or Florida law.
Once all of the relevant information has been collected, your attorney may send the employer what is known as a “demand letter.” This communication in effect states that you may be willing to settle the case without a lawsuit outside of court. The hope is that your employer wants to resolve your complaint without unnecessary publicity and with the least amount of disruption to the company. If the employer ignores the letter or doesn’t comply, your attorney will take the necessary steps to start a legal action.
Following the initial investigation, but before a lawsuit can be filed, the plaintiff must file a claim for employment discrimination with either the Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). These agencies investigate discrimination claims and require the employer to file a written response. When their investigation ends, the agency typically issues a dismissal, which gives the claimant the right to file a lawsuit. This requirement of an administrative complaint must precede the filing of a discrimination lawsuit in court and the agencies can take several months to complete their investigation.
Filing a Complaint
The next step in a civil employment lawsuit is the pleading stage. After the administrative complaint requirement is met, your attorney will file your complaint with the appropriate court, either U.S. federal district court or the Florida circuit court for your county. You will be the plaintiff bringing the action against the defendant, your employer. Your attorney will also coordinate the serving of the complaint and a summons on the employer, who must then respond in the time set in the applicable rules.
Your employment discrimination complaint will provide include the necessary procedural and jurisdictional statements, a statement of the facts setting out your allegations against your employer, and the individual counts detailing the employer’s violation of discrimination laws. Once the employer is served with the summons and complaint, it will file a response. After this, the pleading stage is over and discovery begins.
Formal discovery is the process of exchanging information between the plaintiff and the defendant about proposed witness testimony and evidence to be presented at trial. Discovery allows the parties to learn before the trial begins what evidence may be presented and it impacts the claims.
Discovery requests are sent between the opposing attorneys and can include the following:
- Written questions and responses (interrogatories);
- Requests for business records, memos, texts, and other written documents; and
- Other formal investigations, such as witness depositions under oath.
As a plaintiff, your employer or former employer will seek to depose you. A deposition is a witness’s sworn out-of-court testimony. At your deposition, your employer’s attorney has the chance to ask you questions, and you must answer honestly under oath. It is a bit like a mini-trial, usually held at one of the attorneys’ offices with a court reporter recording the transcript of what’s said, but without a judge. Your attorney is present to make sure the questions are appropriate, and that you are not asked to divulge any privileged information.
In addition to depositions, the attorneys will make motions asking the judge to rule on questions about evidence and the way the trial will be conducted.
The discovery stage can be the longest and most difficult part of the case for most litigants.
Negotiation and Mediation
After discovery has ended, most judges will ask the parties to try to mediate the case, if they haven’t already done so in an effort to avoid the time, administrative agency resources, and expense of a trial.
In mediation, a neutral third-party facilitates discussions to settle the case out of court.
If negotiations and mediation don’t result in a settlement, one side or the other (or both) may bring a motion arguing that the judge should make a final determination without a trial. This is called a motion for summary judgment, in which a party will argue that there are no genuine disputes as to any material facts in the case. Because of this, the moving party is entitled to judgment in their favor by law. If this motion is denied, the trial is scheduled.
If negotiations and motions for summary judgment fail, your case will go to trial. Note that an offer to settle may come at any time—even during the trial—but your attorney must be prepared to litigate the dispute. At this stage, your attorney will be busy preparing witnesses, filing motions, and getting ready with all of the tasks in a trial. This can include picking a jury, trying to determine whether evidence will be included or excluded, preparing witnesses, hiring experts, formulating an opening argument, and mapping out a trial strategy.
The trial stage can also be lengthy and expensive, as both sides typically spend a great amount of time preparing to present their cases and filing pretrial motions before even presenting the case to a judge or jury.
The Trial Proceeding
Your case will be placed on the court docket and will be tried before a jury or a judge. Each side has the opportunity for opening and closing statements, direct and cross-examination of witnesses, and introduction of evidence that supports their argument.
Know that if your case proceeds to trial, the employer’s counsel may try to personally discredit you as an employee, often using human resources records and performance evaluations to call into question your account of the discriminatory conduct and your reliability and caliber as an employee.
At the conclusion of the presentation of testimony and evidence and the closing arguments, the judge will render a decision or the jury will reach a verdict.
After the Trial
After the jury or the judge makes a final decision in the case, you’ll typically have to accept it. Your attorney will help you collect a judgment if you win or discuss a possible appeal if you lose.
The party that loses at trial may decide to appeal the decision. At this stage, the applicable court of appeals may overrule the trial court decision or it may affirm it. An appeal can take many years to resolve because there are many procedural steps involved, and the appellate courts usually take a great deal of time to resolve the important questions they face.
Contact an Experienced Florida Employment Law Attorney
If you were wrongfully terminated or otherwise suffered illegal treatment at work, you may have a claim for damages. An experienced employment discrimination attorney may be able to help you obtain compensation for your treatment and injuries. Contact us at Florin Gray for help.
At Florin Gray, our legal team is dedicated to the pursuit of justice for the people we represent. Our law firm has more than 100 years of combined experience successfully representing clients in personal injury law. We operate differently than many law firms and always put the best interests of our clients first. Contact us today.