According to a recent report from The Longo Firm, a Florida-based personal injury and employment law firm, a wrongful termination case — from filing the lawsuit to the verdict — can take anywhere from 12 to 20 months in state court to 12 to 16 months in federal court to four or five years. Before filing this type of lawsuit, it’s important to know if you are eligible for such a case and what steps to take to sue your employer.
What Is Wrongful Termination? Types & Eligibility Requirements
Wrongful termination (also called “wrongful dismissal” or “wrongful discharge”) occurs whenever an employee is fired for an illegal reason that can involve a breach of contract terms and conditions or violation(s) of federal anti-discrimination laws. For example, it is illegal to fire an employee for filing a legal complaint against their employer or for having served as a whistleblower to expose any illicit actions their employer may have engaged in. This is known as “retaliation” and is illegal.
It’s also important to note the difference between discriminatory firing and terminating an “at-will” employee. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) dictates that employers are not allowed to fire employees on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or disability. However, employment is viewed as “at-will” and is thus not guaranteed in all states aside from Montana. Employers are therefore allowed to fire employees at any time, for any reason, as long as this motive is not based on some form of discrimination.
Steps To Filing A Wrongful Termination Lawsuit
- Filing Discrimination Charge With EEOC
Plaintiffs (employees) must typically allow the EEOC at least 180 days just to investigate a wrongful termination claim. If no determination is given after this period, you can request a “right to sue” letter that grants you the ability to sue your employer for wrongful termination.
- Issuing A Scheduling Order
A joint scheduling order gives a court an estimate of how long both parties believe the wrongful termination case will take. In federal cases, the judge will typically issue this report very early on. Usually, a federal court scheduling order for a wrongful termination lawsuit lasts about one year from beginning to end. However, this does not mean your lawsuit will take 12 months to settle. Certain cases end with a settlement just days after the filing of the lawsuit, while others settle under an hour before the jury reaches a verdict.
The discovery phase of a case is the one in which parties exchange information. This step typically comprises both written discovery (requests for admissions, requests for production, interrogatories) and oral discovery (depositions). This period is usually one of the longest (can last up to 10 months), especially when multiple witnesses are involved.
Written discovery forms are typically required to be submitted within 30 days of service, with five days often added for mailing documents.
- Summary Judgement
After the discovery period ends, the employer (defendant) will typically file a motion for summary judgement. If the judge approves the motion, the case ends. This motion essentially informs the court that the defendant has the legal right to a judgement and a jury does not need to make any decisions regarding problems of material fact. A judge will usually make a decision on summary judgement roughly three months after hearing arguments from both sides.
Mediation, also called “arbitration,” refers to a third party’s intervention in a dispute in order to resolve it after both parties present their case to the mediator. This can take anywhere from two to four hours to an entire day, depending on how close the parties are to reaching a settlement. During mediation, each side typically is given a chance to preview of the other party’s opening statement.
A trial is held when a court denies a summary judgement motion and mediation fails. Trials can include or exclude a jury, although the latter type of trial is the most common. A trial typically lasts no more than five days, although this can vary depending on how complex the wrongful termination case is.
Many times, wrongful termination cases can include several factors over which plaintiffs or defendants have no control, like the pace at which a trial is held, how long a jury deliberates, or how much experience a mediator has. Witness tampering and intimidation can also delay these types of cases.
Seek More Information About Wrongful Termination
Speak to the employment law attorneys at The Brown Firm, PLLC in Alexandria, Virginia to learn more about whether or not you are eligible to sue your employer for wrongful termination. The Brown Firms’ lawyers are experienced in civil litigation and case resolutions and can help you determine if your employer violated Virginia state or federal laws regarding discrimination or “at-will” employment. Call them or contact them online today to schedule your a legal consultation.