How to File a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit
For employees who feel that a termination was wrongful, the process of filing a lawsuit can be a complex ordeal. One way to make the whole thing easier is to learn more about how to file a wrongful termination lawsuit so that you can be knowledgeable about the basic laws and know what to expect from the process.
Step 1: Know your Status
The first step is an honest assessment of the facts concerning the termination. In order to file a wrongful termination claim, you must determine whether or not you were considered an “at will” employee. If you did not have a union contract or an individual employment contract that was signed upon hire, you are typically considered an “at will” employee. This doesn’t mean that you cannot file a suit but it does mean that you will need to make sure that you can demonstrate that your termination fits under one of the exceptions to “at will” employment.
Step 2: Document your Claim
Once you have determined that your termination was indeed a violation of your rights, begin collecting documentation to support your claim. Create a file including all pertinent information such as your original job offer letter, contract if applicable, and the employer provided handbook. Also include documentation of performance evaluations, raises, promotions, and any other items that may be related to your claim. File documents with the most recent one on top. It’s a good idea to create a list of all documents included in the file for easy reference and a summary of your claim with basic facts and important highlights.
Step 3: Find a Lawyer
Once your supporting documents are in order, begin the search for a lawyer who can help you through the process of filing a wrongful termination lawsuit. It’s important to find a lawyer who specializes in employment laws. There are many resources you can use to locate attorneys, including the Internet, the yellow pages, and even referrals from friends. Organizations that can help with your attorney search include the National Employment Lawyer’s Association, the American Bar Association and your local state bar association.
Step 4: File with the EEOC
In most states, a wrongful termination lawsuit begins with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This is especially true if your claim is based on or involves any type of discrimination or harassment. Filing with the EEOC is required for all lawsuits based on discrimination before a private lawsuit can be filed through the court system. Charges must be filed within the statute of limitations time frame or you could lose the right to file at all. More information on discrimination based lawsuits can be found on the EEOC website.
Step 5: File a Private Lawsuit
The timing and procedures for filing your claim in a court of law are handled by your attorney if your claim is substantial enough for a court procedure. In many cases the next step, if you have a claim, will be to type your complaint and file it with the local Clerk of Court. The actual civil summons is prepared by the clerk’s office and is paired with your complaint and served to the defendant. The defendant has a limited period of time to respond to your complaint and if they fail to respond timely you may get a favorable default ruling.
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Step 6: The Court Process Begins
The court process will continue with additional facts collected from both parties through depositions, subpoenas, and other procedures utilized to secure needed documents and testimony. During this process there may be one or more attempts to settle out of court on behalf of either side. If settlement attempts fail, the case will go to trial and a judgment will be rendered and enforced unless it is appealed by either party.
In many cases, a complaint can be resolved by the EEOC or settled prior to actually going to trial. It’s important for you to have as much knowledge about the process of filing a wrongful termination lawsuit so that you understand what’s happening at any given point and be prepared for the steps that follow.