How Long Does an Employment Discrimination Case Take?
Like most lawsuits, there’s no easy way to know exactly how long an employment discrimination case will take. Even a rough estimate is difficult to determine, as an employment lawsuit can take as long as a few months to several years depending on the circumstances.
While this might be frustrating news to learn as wronged worker, understanding the steps ahead of you can be very beneficial in understanding not just the length of your case, but other details regarding the lawsuit. Setting realistic expectations is an excellent way to plan, prepare, and understand what lies ahead of you, regardless of its timeline.
There are various factors that can impact the duration of a lawsuit:
- EEOC deadlines. The large majority of employment discrimination cases must start by filing a claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), even if you already secured legal representation from a licensed employment law attorney.
- Whether the case goes to trial. Cases that are settled during litigation or mediation are considered voluntary resolutions and will typically result in faster settlements.
- Your attorney’s unique skillset. It’s crucial to select an employment law attorney best suited to your needs. Consider researching a lawyer’s formal qualifications, case results, years of experience, testimonials from past clients, strengths, and any areas of specialty before signing with an employment discrimination lawyer.
- Appeals. Most cases go to trial 1-2 years after the charge was filed. Following the legal proceedings, the losing party might decide to file an appeal, in which case the lawsuit could continue for multiple years.
What to Expect After Filing a Charge with the EEOC
Filing an official claim with the EEOC is just the beginning of what could be a long journey in an employment discrimination case. It’s important to know what to expect moving forward to obtain the most favorable outcome in court. Here is a general overview of the steps involved in an employment discrimination case.
Step 1: Secure legal representation from a trusted attorney.
While it’s possible to file an EEOC claim without legal representation, it’s not recommended. There are various reasons for this.
Firstly, filing an EEOC claim between the 180-300 day mark will require you to file the claim under federal law—which means the lawsuit must be filed within 90 days. If this occurs, an employment discrimination attorney will only have 90 days to help you move forward. While this isn’t unachievable, it certainly isn’t easy. Even the most experienced lawyer will likely find themselves in a pinch to meet deadlines if this is the case.
Secondly, if you’re preparing for an employment discrimination lawsuit, it’s safe to assume that the employer who wronged you is already lawyering up—or they already have. The unfortunate reality is that employers are often in better financial straits than a wronged employee, and have access to funds and resources that you lack.
To give yourself a fighting chance, it’s crucial to secure dependable legal counsel that will give you the best odds in court. A qualified lawyer can also assist you with preparing for trial, meeting deadlines, and filling out appropriate paperwork correctly and on time.
Step 2: File a claim.
Contact the EEOC via email, phone, or in-person to start the process. Filing a claim is free. You do not need a lawyer prior to filing the claim, although it’s always wise to retain experienced legal representation as soon as possible. A good employment discrimination attorney may make or break you in the courtroom, as employment law is complex and the case can stretch on for several years.
There are 3 key things to keep in mind when filing a claim:
- You must file the claim before you can proceed with an employment discrimination lawsuit.
- Claims must be filed within a certain time limit after the incident of discrimination occurred. Generally, employees have 180 days following the discriminatory act to file a claim. This may be extended to 300 days in the event that state or local laws also prohibit employment discrimination. Consult with your employment law attorney to be sure.
- It’s always best to file a claim as soon as you decide to do so. The earlier you file the claim, the better.
Step 3: The EEOC determines if your case is viable.
On average, the EEOC will spend roughly 10 months investigating a claim. Your employer will learn about it within 10 days of filing, so make sure you’re mentally prepared. Following the investigation, 1 of 3 things will happen:
- The EEOC will close the investigation. You’ll receive notice that your case isn’t pursuable in a court of law.
- The EEOC will suggest that you and your employer agree to the mediation process. In this case, a mediator will attempt to reach a voluntary settlement between the two parties.
- Your employer must respond to the charge. This occurs if the claim isn’t resolved through mediation.
Step 4: File a lawsuit in court.
After the EEOC concludes their investigation, there are 3 routes your case might take.
- If the EEOC is unsure if employment laws have been violated, they will send you a Notice of Right to Sue. This grants you the right to file a lawsuit in court.
- If the EEOC establishes that employment laws have been violated, they’ll attempt to reach a voluntary settlement between you and your employer. If a settlement cannot be reached, you’ll be referred to the EEOC’s legal staff or Department of Justice.
- If the EEOC decides not to file a lawsuit, you’ll receive a Notice of Right to Sue.
Donati Law Is Here to Empower Employees Like You
If you experienced discrimination or retaliation from an employer, you don’t have to suffer in silence. It’s against federal law for any employer to retaliate against an employee for speaking up or filing a report regarding an instance of harassment or discrimination.
Don’t be bullied into staying silent. Our firm is committed to bettering the lives of our clients. We’re devoted to committing 100% of our energy, attention, and effort on a case-by-case basis to obtain the most favorable outcome in court.
If you’ve been wronged by an employer, seek justice now. Call (901) 209-5500 to consult with one of our skilled employment discrimination attorneys.