What is a Discrimination Lawsuit?
Discrimination is unequal treatment without a legitimate reason, and in many instances, it is illegal. If you experience unlawful discrimination, you may either file a claim with a government agency or file a private lawsuit to recover damages. In some cases, you may do both.
An example of a discrimination lawsuit is ongoing against Southwestern College in San Diego. Black employees allege that the school has consistently discriminated against them, passing them over for promotions and even using racial slurs.
Should I File a Discrimination Lawsuit?
You do not have to be represented in a group to sue. If you have experienced individual discrimination based on your age, gender, sexual orientation, race, national origin, disability, or other protected factors, you may be able to file a lawsuit.
Not all instances of being treated unfairly or unequally constitute unlawful discrimination. Federal, state, and even some municipal laws outlaw particular types of discrimination in specific settings, such as employment and education. A discrimination lawyer can help you understand your situation and if filing a lawsuit is the right step.
When Should I File a Lawsuit?
If you have experienced discrimination, take action as soon as possible. Time limits, known as statutes of limitations, on discrimination lawsuits vary by state and by which law applies. You may have months, a year, or a few years before you miss the opportunity to take action.
In some cases, a lawsuit must be proceeded by a government claim. Depending on the applicable agency, you may only have a few months to do so. Talk to a lawyer as soon as you experience discrimination so they can ensure you meet all deadlines.
Who Will I Sue in a Discrimination Lawsuit?
The defendant or defendants in a discrimination lawsuit are the individuals or organizations who directly discriminated against you or should have prevented it. For instance, at work, there may be one supervisor who continually passed you over for a promotion because of your race, but the company may also be liable. They are responsible for maintaining a non-discriminatory workplace.
Other potential defendants in discrimination lawsuits include:
- Municipal or state governments
- A federal government agency
- A transportation company
- A school or university
- A healthcare system or hospital
- Banks and lenders
- Landlords, rental agencies, or real estate companies
What Can I Recover in Damages?
The amount of damages awarded in discrimination cases is highly variable. There are no measurable monetary injuries in some cases, while in others, the discrimination resulted in lost job opportunities and income. Federal and state laws also limit damages in some cases.
Your lawyer can help you determine what you can claim and seek in damages if you choose to file a lawsuit. Even without monetary costs, you can seek damages for emotional suffering and anguish, embarrassment, loss of reputation, and other non-economic costs.
Particularly egregious or extreme cases of discrimination may result in punitive damages. This punishes the perpetrator and deters future discrimination. If you can prove discrimination but not any actual harm, you may still be able to recover a small amount of nominal damages.
The Steps in a Discrimination Lawsuit
A lawyer will help you through the process of filing, and hopefully winning, your discrimination lawsuit. The steps can be confusing, with many laws that may apply, so having the right lawyer is essential.
The basic steps in a discrimination lawsuit are:
- A government claim.
You may have to file a claim with a government agency as your first step. Workplace discrimination, for instance, must go through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. They may be able to resolve the issue and can also permit you to file a private lawsuit.
- A complaint.
If you get permission to file or do not need to go through a government agency, your lawyer will begin the lawsuit by filing an official complaint. It outlines the allegations and notifies the defendants of charges.
- Discovery period.
The complaint triggers a period of investigations of the incident, evidence collection, depositions, and sharing of information between legal teams for plaintiffs and defendants.
- Settlement negotiations.
With all the information in place, your lawyer will attempt to negotiate a settlement with the defendants.
- A trial.
If negotiations are not successful, you can take your case to trial where both sides argue before a jury.
- Appeals and collecting compensation.
Either side can appeal the jury’s decision. If it went in your favor and the defendants appeal, it delays your recovery of damages. Your lawyer will take steps to ensure you collet compensation as quickly as possible.
If you have been the victim of discrimination, talk to a lawyer about filing a lawsuit. You may be eligible for damages if the situation cannot be resolved without official legal action.