Filing a lawsuit against your employer seems intimidating and stressful, but can be a necessary
step to justice. No matter the problem, there are legal professionals who will assist you and try
their best to obtain a legal remedy. Businesses of all sizes can take advantage of their employees,
and it can be difficult to know when you should take the issue to court. Of course, always ask a
lawyer if the problem at hand represents a winnable case. A lawyer will be honest about the
available options and probable outcomes. However, it is important to understand what first steps
should be taken by the employee to achieve the desired outcome.
There are four main stages of an employment lawsuit, which will all be assisted by a lawyer.
Each step is broken down below, which will hopefully make the idea of a lawsuit seem less
intimidating to the average person. It can be a tedious process, but with a dedicated lawyer the
employee (a/k/a the “plaintiff”) will be able to achieve justice.
- Gathering Information: First, the attorney will gather information about the case and
business. As a plaintiff, you will be asked many questions that correlate with the case.
This will allow the lawyer to fully understand the problem and how to proceed. The
lawyer will also review necessary documents, informally interview others (if needed),
and learn about the employer. They will then decide which strategy is best for the case
and inform the client about next steps. It is important to remember that patience is a
virtue, and that this process can be the most tedious of all. Then, the attorney may serve a
“demand letter” specifying the settlement requested by the plaintiff. This letter may be
accepted or ignored, depending on the employer (a/k/a the “defendant”) and its lawyer. If
the defendant does not accept the letter, then the plaintiff’s lawyer will talk this the client
about filing the case in the appropriate forum (court, administrative agency, etc.).
- Pleading: This step assumes the employer rejected the demand letter and that the case has
been filed. Typically, the defendant will receive a summons and complaint, which
requires a response. If the defendant does not agree with the plaintiff’s allegations, then it
must inform the court in writing. “Motions” are requests made to the court requesting a
particular action be taken. For example, a defendant can move to dismiss the case for lack
- Discovery: Most cases will settle during this stage and never go to trial, but for others
the litigation process will continue. Here, the parties request written responses to questions
and relevant documentation. As a plaintiff, you would most likely be questioned by the
opposing lawyer at a deposition (your lawyer will be there with you) and vice versa.
- Trial: The final phase of litigation. During this phase, the parties present their case or
defense to the jury or a judge. The parties generally present evidence through documents
and witnesses. If the losing party disagrees with the verdict or award, then it can file a
motion or appeal the decision.
These steps are an oversimplified explanation of a lawsuit, but it certainly makes it easier to
understand the process if you engage in a case. Be sure to both trust your lawyer, and not be
afraid to ask him/her questions to further understand each step.