If you want to pursue a wrongful termination case, there are several avenues available to you. They range from informal, such as engaging in settlement discussions with your employer, to formal, such as filing an administrative claim or lawsuit.
In some cases, you may be able to reach a settlement agreement with your employer through informal negotiations. A lawyer can be helpful, even at this stage, because he or she can explain the legal grounds for your claims and advise you on what a fair settlement would be for your case. Your employer may also take your claims more seriously if there’s a lawyer in the picture.
As a first step, your lawyer might call up your employer (or its lawyer) to talk about the merits of the case and see if your employer is interested in settlement discussions. Or, your lawyer might send your employer a “demand letter,” outlining your claims and making an initial settlement demand. If your employer is open to a settlement, it may have its lawyer call your lawyer to negotiate. The lawyers may then go back and forth with counteroffers until a compromise is reached. Depending on how strong your case is and how much money is at stake, you may be able to resolve your case at this stage.
Before you can file a discrimination or harassment lawsuit based on federal law, you must first file an administrative claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If your state has its own anti-discrimination laws, you may need to file a claim with a similar state agency.
The EEOC will investigate your claim. In rare cases, the EEOC may decide to file a lawsuit against your employer on your behalf. However, more often, the EEOC will issue you a “right-to-sue letter,” which gives you the right to move forward with your lawsuit in court.
If the EEOC takes longer than 180 days to investigate your claim, it must issue you a right-to-sue letter upon your request.
You may file a claim yourself, or you may have a lawyer file a claim for you. It can be beneficial to hire a lawyer at this stage, especially if you want a quicker resolution of your claims. A lawyer will know what documents to obtain, how to maximize settlement negotiations, and how to present your case in the most persuasive light. And, your employer may be more inclined to settle if it knows that a lawyer is ready and willing to file a lawsuit on your behalf.
Once you receive a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC, you generally have only 90 days to file a lawsuit in court. Because filing a lawsuit requires knowledge of detailed procedural rules and substantive law, most employees will need a lawyer at this stage of the process. A lawyer will be able to identify any claims that you have under state and federal law, file your complaint, and represent you throughout the case – and if necessary, throughout a trial.
Mediation is an informal settlement tool that can be used at any point in your case. At mediation, a neutral third party will try to help you and your employer reach a settlement agreement. The mediator does not make an actual decision in the case, however. So if you and your employer can’t agree, your case will simply continue on to the next stage. If you file an administrative claim or lawsuit, you will likely participate in mediation at least once. However, if your employer agrees, you could even set up a mediation before you get that far.
This case was not handled by our firm. However, if you have any questions regarding this case, or any employment matter, please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@MayaLaw.com.
If you feel you have been mistreated by your employer or in your place of employment and would like to explore your employment law options, contact the experienced employment law attorneys today at 203-221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.
 “Discrimination & Harassment: Pursuing Your Wrongful Termination Case,” posted by NOLO.com.