Wrongful Termination Lawsuits: How Long Does It Take?

Wrongful Termination Lawsuits: How Long Does It Take?

Losing your job can be devastating, especially if you feel the termination was unjustified. You may have mounting bills to pay, damage to your reputation, and uncertainty about finding a new job in your career field. Seeking compensation through a wrongful termination lawsuit is one option, but how long does a wrongful termination case take?

While every situation is unique, most wrongful termination cases follow a similar timeline through administrative filings, court proceedings, discovery, motions, settlement talks, and sometimes trials. Understanding this legal process is essential if you’re considering pursuing wrongful termination claims.

At TONG LAW, we have handled many types of wrongful termination cases for clients. In this article, we’ll explain the typical phases of a wrongful termination case, from initial filing to final resolution. You’ll get an overview of how long each stage usually takes, as well as the shortest and longest case timelines.

Navigating the Complex Wrongful Termination Legal Process

The wrongful termination legal process has many steps and complexities. Generally, it starts with filing administrative charges with the California Civil Rights Department (CRD) for discrimination claims. For other violations, you may be able to go directly to court. Either way, expect a lengthy process, including discovery, pretrial motions, settlement talks, and potentially a full trial.

Understand that these cases can last anywhere from one to three years from start to finish, depending on the circumstances. An average timeline is around 12-24 months. However, complex cases with substantial evidence and hearings can drag on much longer. We’ll walk through the key stages so you can set realistic expectations.

Initiating Agency Claims for Wrongful Termination

The first legal step for wrongful termination based on discrimination or harassment is usually filing a charge with California’s CRD or the federal EEOC against your employer for their illegal actions. This charge should clearly explain how the discriminatory firing violated the FEHA, Title VII, or other laws based on protected characteristics.

Filing With the Civil Rights Department

The process starts by submitting a claim to CRD, either through an online account, printable form, or phone. An intake interview will follow to evaluate the complaint’s validity.

If valid, CRD issues a detailed complaint form to the employer, who then has 30 days to respond with evidence. Before completing the investigation, CRD requests both parties engage in mediation to potentially resolve the issue.

If mediation fails, CRD thoroughly investigates by reviewing information and evidence from all sources. A decision follows on whether discrimination violations occurred under California law.

If CRD rejects the case, a Right-to-Sue notice gets issued, allowing the complainant to hire an employment lawyer to file in civil court within 1 year. Reasons for rejection include resource constraints, evidence strength, or reasonable resolution offers, even if the claim had underlying merit.

Filing With the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

You have 180-300 days from the termination date to file the EEOC charge in order to preserve your legal rights. The agency will then investigate by requesting information from you and the company. They may also offer mediation to facilitate a settlement.

Overall, expect the EEOC process to take six months to a year before you receive a Right to Sue notice. Wrongful discharge claims beyond discrimination may allow you to forgo the EEOC process.

Filing a Lawsuit Moves the Case to Court

After exhausting administrative remedies, the next major step is filing a wrongful termination lawsuit in court. You can file in state or federal court, each of which has pros and cons in terms of timelines, damages, and procedural rules.

The court complaint has to lay out all the factual evidence showing the firing was illegal. Your employment law attorney will handle drafting the lawsuit and navigate whether state or federal court is best. This process takes two to six months to complete.

Discovery Delves Deeply Into Case Facts

Once the lawsuit is filed, discovery begins. This involves extensive sharing of relevant information through evidence requests, documents, interrogatories, depositions, and more.

Discovery requires significant legal work and can easily take six months to two years. Be prepared to turn over any information related to your employment and termination so your wrongful termination lawyer can build the strongest case.

Pretrial Motions Seek Favorable Court Rulings

As discovery proceeds, your attorney and the defense will file motions asking the judge to rule on certain issues before trial, such as requesting partial summary judgment that certain facts are undisputed, for example.

The time and resources spent developing persuasive pretrial motions and responses add several more months to the case timeline, but solid rulings can profoundly impact the trajectory and outcome.

Pursuing Settlement Discussions

Settlement talks often begin early and continue throughout the pretrial phase. Many wrongful termination suits are fully settled before trial, given the risks and costs involved. An experienced lawyer will tenaciously negotiate to get you the best possible terms.

Your wrongful termination attorney will advise you about reasonable settlement figures based on lost wages, damage to your career, and case strengths and weaknesses. Participating in mediation can facilitate productive settlement discussions if severance negotiations stall.

Trial Follows If Settlement Efforts Fail

Only about 5 – 10% of civil lawsuits go all the way to a trial. But if your case does end up before a jury, expect the trial to last weeks or longer. Both sides have to present extensive evidence and testimony, followed by intense cross-examination.

Navigating complex trial practice rules and procedures requires an experienced employment litigator by your side. If you win at trial, you may recover more damages than a settlement would offer, but a trial can be draining and the outcome uncertain.

The Timeline Varies But Can Take Over 2 Years

Every wrongful termination case follows a unique timeline, but the stages are generally predictable:

  • Administrative filing: 6 – 12 months
  • Lawsuit filing: 2 – 6 months
  • Discovery: 6 months – 2 years
  • Pretrial motions: 6 – 12+ months
  • Settlement talks: 6 – 12+ months
  • Trial: 1 – 12+ months

So, while each case is different, be prepared for the process to potentially take over two years if your case is strong and complex. An employment law attorney can help make the process as efficient as possible.

How a Wrongful Termination Lawyer Can Help

Pursuing a wrongful termination claim without legal representation is extremely difficult. An employment law attorney can provide invaluable help at each stage of the process:

  • Analyzing the facts to identify viable legal claims related to the firing
  • Filing authoritative administrative charges and court documents
  • Conducting in-depth discovery and research to build your case
  • Developing persuasive legal arguments in motions and at trial
  • Negotiating aggressively for the best possible settlement
  • Navigating complex court rules, hearings, and trial proceedings
  • Developing litigation strategies to efficiently and favorably resolve the case
  • Providing support through a complex legal fight

Having an experienced wrongful termination lawyer as your advocate can make all the difference in reaching a positive outcome. Don’t go it alone against a major employer.

Are You Ready to Fight Back Against Wrongful Termination?

Pursuing a wrongful termination lawsuit is a challenging process full of complex legal procedures. It requires determination and skilled legal representation to successfully hold employers accountable for illegal firing.

At TONG LAW, we understand how devastating losing a job can be – especially when it’s unjustified or unlawful. We have the experience, resources, and determination to stand by your side and advocate for the compensation you deserve. With aggressive litigation, meticulous discovery, and tireless settlement negotiation, we can build leverage to achieve a positive outcome.

We know this process is daunting. But you don’t have to go it alone. Contact our office for dedicated legal guidance and counseling during this difficult time. Let TONG LAW take on the fight to redeem your reputation, restore your income, and make sure your rights are respected. Contact us for a confidential consultation – we’re committed to obtaining the justice you deserve.

Author Bio

Vincent Tong

Vincent Tong is the CEO and Managing Partner of TONG LAW, a business and employment law firm located in Oakland, CA. Vincent is a fierce advocate for employees facing discrimination and wrongful termination. With several successful jury trial victories and favorable settlements, he has earned a strong reputation for delivering exceptional results for his clients.

In addition, Vincent provides invaluable counsel to businesses, guiding them on critical matters such as formation and governance, regulatory compliance, and protection of intellectual property assets. His depth of experience allows him to anticipate risks, devise strategies to avoid legal pitfalls, and empower clients to pursue their goals confidently.

Vincent currently serves as the 2021 President of the Board of Directors for the Alameda County Bar Association and sits on the Executive Board for the California Employment Lawyers Association. Recognized for outstanding skills and client dedication, he has consecutively earned the Super Lawyers’ Rising Star honor since 2015, reserved for the top 2.5% of attorneys. He also received the Distinguished Service Award for New Attorney from the Alameda County Bar Association in 2016. He is licensed to practice before all California state courts and the United States District Court for the Northern and Central Districts of California.

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