If you feel like you’ve been unjustly treated by an employer, you may be thinking about legal action. However, it can seem pretty daunting, especially if you work for a large firm.
To help you out, we’ve put together a guide containing everything you need to know to file - and win - a lawsuit against your employer.
While there are variations between employers and states, you may be entitled to certain legal protections.
You may wish to pursue a lawsuit against your employer if your legal rights have been violated. For example-
- You’ve been discriminated against based on your race, nationality, skin color, gender, pregnancy, religion, disability, genetic information, age, or even marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or other characteristics.
- You’ve been harassed in your workplace
- You haven’t been paid for the hours you've worked - at least the minimum wage, plus an overtime premium for any hours worked over forty in one week (or, in some places, over eight hours in one day).
- There have been safety issues in your workplace
- You’ve been unable to take leave to care for your own or a family member's serious health condition or following the birth or adoption of a child
- Your privacy has been violated
First of all, you should always speak to your employer to try and resolve the dispute. However, if the issue is still not resolved, or your employer isn’t being helpful, you need to protect yourself - and provide evidence of the issue - by documenting it.
This may mean taking notes of key conversations and events, including the time, date, and names of other colleagues who were present.
Compile any documents that can support your side of the story, for example, company policies, letters, emails, performance reviews, memoranda, employee handbooks, and other correspondence.
However, ensure you collect only the documents you have legitimate access to. If you take or copy confidential documents, even if they are related to your dispute, you could get fired and this may compromise your legal claims.
You should also collect statements from any of your coworkers who witnessed or heard any of the incidents that can be linked to the problem. If possible, they should write down what they saw or heard in signed, dated statements.
Determine your claim
Employment law can be complex and quite often there are several claims that your case falls under.
If for example an employer or colleague is discriminating against you based on the color of your skin or sexual orientation then it’s considered discrimination, and if someone is speaking to you or touching you in an inappropriate way, it’s classed as sexual harassment.
Claims relating to payment fall under a wage dispute.
You should use the evidence that you’ve gathered to look over your case and consider which claim it falls under. It’s also a good idea to become familiar with the federal and state laws surrounding your claim.
Your attorney can help with this, but it’s a good idea to read up on them yourself, too.
Find an attorney
Once you’ve gathered your evidence, talked to witnesses, and identified the claim you want to make, you can now take your argument to a lawyer, who can better assist you in the next steps.
A legal professional will be able to tell you what direction you can go in and will be able to lead you through the entire process, advising you throughout.
If you’re considering representing yourself, it’s worth noting that your employer is likely to have an experienced lawyer on their side, and therefore you should have one too, as it’s important to have someone on hand who knows the intricacies of these types of cases.
Filing a lawsuit against a company can be a long, complicated process, and big companies especially may know the legal loopholes, so finding a good attorney is essential.
Things to consider
Employment claims are hard to win, so If you're expecting a big payout, think again, as the vast majority of legal claims never make it to trial.
Although it’s difficult, simply wanting to seek revenge or prove a point is not a good reason to pursue a lawsuit, as emotions matter little in the court of law.
On the other hand, if you want something simple, such as a retroactive pay rise or a letter of recommendation, it’s best to try negotiating with your employer personally rather than seeking legal action.
Strength of the case
Winning your lawsuit depends on the strength of your case. To win, you will need documented evidence that proves your rights were violated.
Like we said, emotions don’t fly in the courtroom, as strong feelings or suspicions are not the same as cold, hard evidence. This is where an attorney can help: they can identify the claims that your case falls under and tell you whether or not you have a chance of winning.
Pursuing an employment lawsuit takes up a lot of time and money. If you have a particularly strong case, some lawyers may be willing to take it on a contingency basis, in which the lawyer's fees come out of the money you win.
However, you will probably still have to pay the costs of bringing the claim along the way, which can be substantial. It’s also worth considering the contingency fee, as it could be 25%, 33%, or even 40% of what you ultimately collect, so ask yourself is it worth the time, money, and of course, the emotional energy required?
As an employee, you’re protected by certain rights, and if these have been violated, you have every right to pursue legal action.
To win a lawsuit against your employer, you need to have a strong case, which means a clear claim, plenty of documented evidence and statements from witnesses, and a highly-experienced employment lawyer on your side.
As we said, employment lawsuits can be complex and difficult to win, especially against big companies, so it’s essential you have all of the above before pursuing legal action.
Thank you for visiting. This website is for informational purposes only. None of the information provided is intended to constitute, nor does it constitute, legal advice, and none of the information necessarily reflects the opinions of Misty Rock Capital LLC dba whocanisue.com or anyone associated, employed or affiliated with Misty Rock Capital LLC dba whocanisue.com.