How Are Wrongful Termination Lawsuits Handled in Court?
Are you in the process of filing a wrongful termination lawsuit against an employer? If so, you’re doing a good thing. Every year, thousands of people are wrongfully terminated from their job for discriminatory reasons, and too many do nothing about it.
A wrongful termination claim can be brought after you’ve been fired from at-will employment or you’re under an employment contract, but can also be brought after what’s known as constructive discharge. A common reason for wrongful termination is taking medical leave. The medical leave act prohibits this.
According to the Wrongful Termination Law Group, this means that though you technically resigned, the circumstances that caused you to quit were so bad that no reasonable person would have continued to work under those conditions. For instance, sexual harassment that leads to a wrongful discharge is common.
If you’ve never been through a wrongful termination lawsuit, here’s what you can expect.
Your case will probably be settled out of court
The first thing to recognize is that your case is less likely to go to trial than to settle out of court. If it’s fairly simple and straightforward, your former employer will probably prefer to settle and avoid the expense and unwanted attention of a trial.
At first glance, it might seem as if companies settle to avoid a trial because they believe they’ll lose the case. But trials are expensive and time-consuming, and many employers don’t have the time or money to waste. Often, it’s cheaper for everyone to settle, no matter what the legal issues may be.
Settlement checks might come in chunks
Settling is a great way to get compensation faster than going to trial, although it will still take time to get your money. Depending on the final settlement amount, you might receive multiple checks over a period of time.
You might have to pursue collections
It’s also possible your old employer won’t pay the judgment you’re entitled to. If that happens, you should be prepared to hire a professional to collect the money. Sometimes, the collection process necessitates placing a lien on real estate and assets such as cars, boats, and RVs. Sometimes liens get slapped on bank accounts, as well.
If your case doesn’t settle, you’ll go to trial
Sometimes, settling a case isn’t the best move. For example, lawsuits often end up in court when they carry the potential to create a legal precedent, or when an attorney believes the client will get greater compensation through a jury trial.
If your attorney believes you’ll have a better outcome with a jury, get ready to go to trial. Typically, jury trials will take longer, which means if you win, you won’t see your settlement money for a good while. But if there’s reasonable potential for a larger settlement, it could be worth the wait.
Three critical steps to take now to support your wrongful termination case
Here are three steps you can take to ensure you have the best chance at winning your case.
- Find a wrongful termination lawyer to take your case on contingency
The best way to move forward with your lawsuit is to find an attorney who will take your case on contingency. This means you don’t have to pay the lawyer unless and until you win the case.
If you do win, your lawyer will receive your settlement check(s) from your employer and take his or her fees off the top before forwarding the remainder to you.
- Document everything
Document everything your boss said and did that you believe could be connected to your termination case. For instance, record any comments made by your employer or other colleagues that you believe would be relevant to your wrongful dismissal.
You might not be certain what will be relevant, so it’s best to document every conversation and interaction you can recall.
- Gather witnesses
Did anyone else witness your termination? Does anyone else have knowledge of the discriminatory practices you allege were committed by your employer, or the events that lead to your termination?
If anyone inside or outside of your firm is aware of discrimination, try to obtain a statement from them along with their contact information.
What to expect if you lose the case
No matter how much evidence you amass against your former employer, there’s always a possibility you might not win your case. If you don’t, ask your attorney about the potential for filing an appeal.
What to expect if you win your case
- Economic damages. This includes repayment of lost wages calculated on the basis of how many hours you would have worked from the date you were fired to the date of your trial.
- Compensatory damages. This covers a range of losses such as the cost of finding a new job, medical expenses, and emotional harm.
- Punitive damages. These damages are awarded as a punishment to the employer. For instance, a man won $10 million in punitive damages after being fired for being white.
You need an experienced wrongful termination attorney
There are no guarantees in the legal system, but an experienced attorney with a winning track record will greatly increase your chances of prevailing with your case.
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