Best Ohio Employment Discrimination Attorney Answers: How long will my employment discrimination case last? How long does it take to sue my employer for wrongful termination? How long will my case be in court? How Long Will My Employment Claim Take?
It seems like every time I meet with a potential new client there are few common questions about their employment claim. Most of these questions cover the basics, do I have a case? What are the next steps in my employment claim? Can I sue my boss personally for discrimination? Hint, for the answers to all these questions and more call the right attorney! However, hands down the most popular question our lawyers get is how long will my employment discrimination case take?
Of course, it is only natural for a recently terminated employee to ask how long they can expect to wait before their claims are resolved. Many of our clients have just lost their sole source of income when they come to us, and the concerns quickly mount as to how their bills will be paid. We have previously addressed how long a person has to file an employment discrimination claim. (See How Long Do I Have To Sue My Employer?, and, When Does My Age Discrimination Claim Get Old?).
As a quick reminder, here are some of the deadlines or statutes of limitations for the most common claims we see:
- Claims for Race/Color, Religion, Gender, National Origin, Disability, and Pregnancy Discrimination, as well as Sexual Harassment: Under Federal Law, these claims fall under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and must be filed with the EEOC within 180 days. Under Ohio law, these employment discrimination claims, which would include wrongful firing, must be filed in court within six years.
- Workers’ Compensation Retaliation (State Claim Only): 90 days to send notification of the claim and 180 days to file a lawsuit.
- Age Discrimination: Under state law, you have 180 days to file a lawsuit; and under federal law, you must file your employment claim with the EEOC within 180 days.
- Whistleblower Claims: State law claims for retaliation or wrongful termination under Ohio R.C. §§ 4113.52 or 3721.24 must be filed in court within 180 days.
- Military Status Claims: The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (“USERRA“) protects our armed forces from being discriminated against in civilian jobs. These claims must be brought in four years.
- Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”): Unlike Title VII claims, FMLA claims do not have to be filed (and cannot be filed) with the EEOC but must be filed in court within two years.
To date, our lawyers have not addressed just how long a person can expect to wait until their legal claims are resolved. There is a simple reason for this; attorneys just don’t know – well not exactly anyway.
Our lawyers always tell our clients that we will be straight shooters and tell them what they need to hear, not just what they want to hear. Still, when our attorneys tell employees that we cannot fully predict how long their employment claim can go on for I often get a shocked expression in return. The truth is no one knows how long a specific case could last. The best we can do is cite to an average case takes between 11 and 14 months to complete.
The best-case scenario is always that a case settles early. We have settled some cases in a matter of a week or so.
Our lawyers can tell you how long it will typically take an employer to respond to a notice of claim(s) – anywhere from a week to a few months (and maybe longer if they turn it over to insurance). Our attorneys cannot predict how long or even if the employer will negotiate before it becomes necessary to file a wrongful termination or other type of employment discrimination case because a lot of that depends on the willingness of another party. That phase of you employment claim can last anywhere from a couple weeks (if they refuse to negotiate) all the way through a year (if there are intense negotiations on a more complex case).
Once a lawsuit for an employment claim is filed, a lot will depend on which judge the unlawful employment discrimination case is assigned to. Some judges will have the case on a “rocket docket” and have the case set for trial within four months while other judges have cases that can last over several years.
Along the way, there are several things that can cause delay – a party filing for bankruptcy, which stays the case, the unavailability of a witness for depositions, trouble getting documents from a third party, or serious health issues of a party or an attorney. Then, there are the unforeseeable delays. For example, just yesterday, the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas suspended all jury trials due to the Coronavirus. (Our attorneys continue to address the Coronavirus pandemic: Our Handling Of The Coronavirus (Covid-19) Outbreak; Coronavirus: What will happen at work?; +++). I mean, who could have seen that coming? Even though this means that many trials and more people will be delayed by this decision, Administrative Judge Brendan Sheehan should be commended for acting swiftly and decisively to ensure the health and safety of the public and the employees of the court system. Hat’s off to Judge Sheehan.
But, even when you do get to your trial date, it does not necessarily mean that your trial for your employment claim is going forward. Criminal trial, which constitutionally take priority, often push back civil trials, which include employment discrimination cases. If a trial gets rescheduled, it would likely get pushed back by several months.
After trial, there will still be post-trial motions, and there is no way to tell how long it will take the judge to rule. We have had several favorable verdicts where it took the court six to eight months to rule on the post-trial motions while other judges have ruled immediately from the bench.
Even after the judge’s decision, your case may still not be over if one side finds a reason to appeal! (Usually, this happens because one side thinks the judge or jury got the law wrong.) That could add another year or more.
If someone tells you exactly how long your case will continue, ask them to look in their crystal ball for the lottery numbers because that has less variables. Indeed, if an attorney tells you that he or she knows how long it will take – run from someone trying to sell you a bag of goods in order to sign you up.
All of these delays can add up. While most cases resolve in about 14 months, there are always outliers, exceptions and unusual circumstances. Take, for example, the decade long litigation Chris Miller endured when he sued his former employer, the City of Ithaca. In fact, this case would still be going on today, but for the fact that the parties were finally able to reach a settlement.
Chris was a former police officer for the City of Ithaca, New York. To say his case was a unique one would be putting it mildly. Chris accused the City of discriminating against him because he is a white male. As we have previously blogged, what is often referred to as “reverse discrimination” is a very real and very actionable form of discrimination. (See Top Race Discrimination Lawyer Reply: Do Race Discrimination Laws Protect White Employees?, Do National Origin Discrimination Laws Protect Americans?, Top Gender Discrimination Lawyer Reply: Can Men Win Discrimination Claims?, and Top Wrongful Termination Lawyer Reply: Can White People Sue For Race Discrimination in Ohio?).
According to a recent article in the Ithaca Times Daily, Chris complained that he had been passed over for promotions due to his race. Due to being passed over, Chris filed multiple complaints with the Division of Human Rights, a New York State agency created to enforce New Yorks’ Human Rights Law. In June 2010, shortly after Chris had made his complaint to the Department of Human Rights, he received an unjust disciplinary write-up. In May 2010, Chris filed a lawsuit against the City in the United States District Court, where he claimed that he was the victim of illegal discrimination and employment retaliation. Not surprisingly, a week after filing his lawsuit, Chris was wrongfully fired.
As our employment discrimination lawyers have previously blogged, reporting, and participating in complaints of unlawful discrimination is a form of protected activity. This means it is illegal to terminate someone just because they had the courage to stand against discrimination. Of course, these protections also extend to lawsuits filed against discriminating employers. (See Can I Be Fired Because I Complained About Discrimination? I Need The Top Lawyer In Ohio To Sue For Wrongful Termination!; Top Employment Lawyer Reply: Can I Be Fired For Reporting Sexual Harassment?; What Should I Do If I Was Fired For Reporting Sexual Harassment?)
Chris decided to take his case to federal court instead of pursuing a state law employment claim (s). A quick side note, I understand this can be very confusing for non-attorneys. For more information, check out our blogs about the complex process of getting a case into federal court, check out some of our previous blogs. (see Top Employment Law Attorney: Do Not File With The EEOC Without Doing This First; File With The EEOC Or Get A Lawyer? Call The Right Attorney; Should I Get A Lawyer To Help Me File An EEOC Charge?; and Should I File With The EEOC On My Own? Call The Right Attorney).
Chris’ case went to its first trial in 2012, where a jury awarded Chris $2 million in his retaliatory termination claim. I am sure that no one is shocked that the City appealed the jury verdict almost immediately, claiming that the jury misapplied the law. The court agreed with the City and granted a new trial in 2015. In the second trial, Chris won again. Although, this time, he was awarded a significantly lower amount of $480,000. Still, the trial court said that the damages awarded by the jury were too high. The court offered Chris $50,000 or a third trial. Chris decided to go back for a third bite of the apple. In this case, his gamble did not pay off, as the third jury awarded Chris just $20,000.
Shockingly, the City appealed the third jury’s award of $20,000. On appeal, the Second Circuit found that the jury was not adequately instructed about the nature of Chris’s retaliation claims. As a result, a fourth trial was ordered to establish what if anything Chris should receive in relation to his retaliation claims.
Is your head spinning right now? Because mine sure is. Let me sum it up for you, Chris had to go to trial three times because the trial courts disagreed with the jury verdicts. After three trials, the lower court still couldn’t get it right, and they had been ordered to do the whole trial over one more time. This is the kind of legal issue that gives lawyers headaches, and law students nightmares when they read the case law.
Evidently, the City of Ithaca was sick of this judicial merry-go-round and decided to get off the ride. In addition to paying Chris the $20,00 verdict from the third trial, and half his attorney fees, the City agreed to pay Chris $420,000 to settle his claims. For the amount of time wasted on this case, it probably would have been cheaper for the City to settle this case before it even got to trial. Instead, after ten long years, the City is paying not only their own attorneys what I assume is an outrageous sum (half of Chris’ attorney fees were estimated at $534,000), but also paying Chris an amount almost equal to the second jury’s verdict.
While $440,000 may seem like a substantial amount, when divided over the ten years of litigation, it equals $44,000 a year. This is equal to about one year’s wages for some police officers. While most cases don’t last ten years, much less go through three different trials, there are always outliers. It would be best if you had an experienced hand to guide you through what could be a very lengthy legal process. At The Spitz Law Firm, our attorneys will be with you every step of the way, if your case lasts ten months, or ten years, call the right attorney today!
If you are searching “I need a lawyer because I have been wrongfully fired or terminated;” or “I have been discriminated against or harassed based on my” race, national origin, gender, age, religion or disability; or even think that you might need an employment lawyer, then it would be best to call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation. Call our Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Toledo attorneys now. The Spitz Law Firm and its attorneys are experienced and dedicated to protecting employees’ rights and solving employment disputes.
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