According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against job applicants and employees, there are thousands of cases of employment discrimination every year in the United States. Recent data shows that in 2019, 61% of American employees (three out of five) said they had witnessed or personally experienced workplace discrimination. In addition to discrimination, employees can face things like hostile work environments, unsafe working conditions, and wrongful termination. When it comes to these violations, seeking the help of a qualified employment attorney is likely the quickest and most efficient path toward reaching an appropriate resolution for employees and employers alike.
Do I Need an Employment Law Attorney?
There are many reasons a person might decide to hire an employment law attorney. As much as one might wish that all work environments would be safe, fair, and welcoming for everyone, the fact is that violations in the workplace happen every day. Whether it be due to unfair hiring practices, gender pay gaps, sexual harassment, OSHA violations, or wrongful termination, there are myriad examples of illegal workplace practices that could lead to a lawsuit. As an employee, it can be daunting to consider filing a lawsuit against an employer. Knowing your rights and how to stand up for them may feel overwhelming. If you feel you’ve been discriminated against, have concerns about unsafe or unfair working conditions, and aren’t sure what next steps to take, it’s a good idea to consult an employment lawyer.
Here are some common reasons someone might file an employment lawsuit claim:
Breach of Contract
Discrimination, based on:
Equal Pay Act
Emotional or Mental Disquietude
Infringement of Privacy
Unfair Hiring, Retention, and Promotion Practices
Employee Lawsuit Settlements: What to Expect
The majority of workplace lawsuits never go to trial. They are either settled out of court or dismissed on pretrial motion. You may also be asking yourself, “How much will an employment lawsuit cost?” This will depend on multiple factors, not the least of which is the type of payment structure you set up with your attorney. For starters, you should expect to spend money on your initial consultation, retainer fees, court costs, administrative fees, and disbursements. If you are planning to file a lawsuit against a current or former employer, there are several steps and stages that you will need to go through. These are outlined below.
Filing with the EEOC
For discrimination cases, you may want to file a charge directly with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). After the EEOC has closed its investigation of your charge, they will give you a Notice of Right to Sue, at which point you will have up to 90 days to file your lawsuit. Upon request, the EEOC can provide you with a list of local labor and employment law attorneys.
Initial Consultation and Filing of Lawsuit
Whether your employment lawsuit is an issue of discrimination or some other concern, it will be wise to consult a qualified employment law attorney. After the initial consultation, your attorney will draft a letter of complaint, which provides a concise outline of the facts of your case. They will serve your complaint, along with any other necessary court documents, to your employer. It will then be up to your employer to respond to the complaint. Typically they will be expected to do so within about 30 days. They may also try to file for dismissal of the case. Assuming the case is not successfully dismissed, a federal judge will schedule a conference with lawyers from both sides. Together the judge and lawyers will determine all of the important dates and deadlines related to your case. After this roadmap for your case has been laid out, your lawyer will provide you with a copy of the schedule, also known as your Case Management Order.
Discovery is one of the most important stages of a lawsuit. This is the time your lawyer will spend gathering all of the pertinent facts related to your case. They will do so through written discovery and depositions.
Written discovery is when your lawyer requests information from your employer, such as personnel files, documents, emails, company policies, copies of any written communication between you and your employers and co-workers, etc. Your lawyer will also provide your
employers with written questions related to your case that they will be required to answer in writing and verify under oath.
Depositions are oral testimonies from individuals whose knowledge of your circumstances may be pertinent to your case. You will also be required to give your own deposition to your employer’s lawyers.
It is estimated that about 95% of employment lawsuits are settled out of court before ever going to trial. Settlements happen for many reasons. Often both sides of a lawsuit would prefer to avoid airing their business in the public eye. Or, they simply prefer to have more certainty and say so in the outcome of a case. Whatever the reason for settling, mediation is a standard approach lawyers use when attempting to reach a settlement in disputes. Once a settlement has been reached, the case can officially be dismissed from the civil court system.
Receiving Your Settlement Funds
After you have agreed upon a settlement, the settlement funds will be distributed to your lawyer via check. Your lawyers will then prepare their final statements regarding the case and issue you a check for whatever amount is owed to you. Depending on what type of fee structure you have set up with your lawyers, you could receive the entire settlement amount, or your lawyers may first subtract any payment owed to them from the settlement funds. It can take weeks or even months to receive your settlement check.
Average Settlements for Employees
It is difficult to say what the average employment lawsuit settlement is, as there are so many different reasons a person might file a lawsuit, and each reason will come with its own averages. For example, the settlement range for wrongful termination may be anywhere between $10,000 and $1,000,000, while a sexual harassment settlement averages around $120,000, and a hostile workplace settlement averages around $50,000. Factors such as the type of employment lawsuit, the size of the company, the type of discrimination (if applicable), and even local, state, and federal laws surrounding the issue brought up in the lawsuit may play a factor in the amount of your settlement.
Outlined below are some examples of recent employment lawsuit cases and their settlements:
EEOC v Skils’kin: Racial Discrimination and Retaliation
According to the EEOC, the only black employee on the Skils’kin grounds crew working at Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming, was repeatedly harassed and called racial slurs by multiple co-workers. When the employee complained, he was forced to continue working directly with the offending co-workers and was eventually fired. In the settlement of this lawsuit, the company agreed to pay $100,000 in damages.
IER v Amiga Informatics, Inc: Discrimination
In February of 2023, The Immigrant and Employee Rights Section of the Department of Justice (otherwise known as IER) won a settlement requiring Amiga to pay $24,864 in civil penalties, undergo training, and be subject to monitoring. They were awarded this settlement after investigations determined that the company had posted multiple facially discriminatory job advertisements in 2021. Amiga’s job postings were found to have unlawfully excluded asylees, refugees, lawful permanent residents, U.S. citizens, and nationals.
EEOC v McDonald’s Franchise: Sexual Harassment
A McDonald’s franchise owner headquartered in Kingman, Arizona, operating approximately 18 McDonald’s restaurants in Arizona, California, and Nevada, is set to pay almost $2 million in a sexual harassment lawsuit settlement. The lawsuit, filed by the EEOC, claimed that the defendant knew about occurrences of sexual harassment by supervisors, co-workers, and managers occurring at multiple locations since at least 2017 and allowed it to continue unchecked. As a result, many employees quit due to an inhospitable work environment.
Employment Law Legal Resources
If you find yourself in a workplace situation that requires litigation, even with the help of an employment attorney, the path to justice may be long and stressful. You may be unsure of where to begin when it comes to filing your employment lawsuit. Depending on the nature of your grievance(s), you may also need help with things like filing for unemployment or finding a new job. Or, you may just want some quick answers to legal questions about your situation. Help with all of this can be found online.
Filing your Claim with the EEOC
Check out the official website of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for guidance on how and when to file a charge of employment discrimination with them.
For more contact information, go here.
Filing for Unemployment and Job Searching
If your situation leaves you needing to file for unemployment, the steps to do so will be different from state to state. You can find information about how to do so here: https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/unemployment-insurance
A quick Google search will take you to a list of trusted online job search engines, resume builder sites, and interview preparation tips. Remember that if you are looking for a new job, you may be legally bound not to discuss the details of your employment lawsuit.
Here you will find a lawyer referral directory of services of the American Bar Association, organized by state and by legal issue. https://www.americanbar.org/groups/legal_services/
National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA) is a national professional organization of attorneys who represent employees in employment law cases.
The Workplace Fairness Attorney Directory lists lawyers from across the U.S. who typically represent workers in employment cases. http://www.workplacefairness.org/find-attorney
More Legal Aid
The American Bar Association Free Legal Answers is a virtual legal advice clinic that provides an online version of the walk-in clinic model. Users may request brief advice and counsel about a specific civil legal issue from a volunteer lawyer by posting their civil legal questions to their state’s website. Lawyers will then follow up with basic legal advice and information, with no expectation of long-term representation. This is a great resource for people seeking advice and information about non-criminal legal matters, but cannot afford a lawyer.
You can contact the ABA through the ABA Service Center Hotline at (800) 285-2221 or email them at Service@americanbar.org, Monday - Friday, 9:00 AM - 6:00 PM ET.
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