What is an Employee Rights Lawsuit?
An employee rights lawsuit is a lawsuit that addresses a violation of rights at work that could not be settled without legal action. Several laws, at the federal, state, and in some cases, local level, protect workers from discrimination, wage disparities, and accidents and injuries. When those rights are violated, employees can take action, filing a claim in some cases, or starting a lawsuit.
When Should I Consider an Employee Rights Lawsuit?
Knowing when to sue in the case of an issue in the workplace can be confusing. Several laws govern employee rights. They cover discrimination by age, disability, gender, and other factors. The laws cover health and safety, family medical leave, and even the hiring process.
You may want to file a lawsuit if you believe an employer has broken one of these laws or violated your employment rights. Whether or not you can file a lawsuit depends on the situation and the law that applies. Only a lawyer specializing in this kind of law can give you good advice and explain your options.
Talk to a lawyer about the possibility of taking legal action if you:
- Experienced discrimination at work or in the hiring process
- Experienced harassment at work
- Suffered injuries and have been denied workers’ compensation benefits
- Have been denied time off for a family medical emergency
- Experienced retaliation after whistleblowing
- Have been unable to resolve a work issue through other channels
Are There Options Other Than Lawsuits?
You can take other steps before filing a lawsuit to resolve a work issue or even recover damages. Many workers report incidents to their employers or human resources and begin a resolution process. If you suffered an injury at work, the next step is to file a workers’ compensation claim for benefits to cover medical and other expenses.
You may also be able to file a complaint or claim with a government agency to resolve the situation. For instance, for cases of workplace discrimination, you must file with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) before being allowed to start a lawsuit against your employer. The EEOC then determines if you can sue. The exception is in cases of wage discrepancies, in which a claim is not required as the first step.
What Are the Steps in an Employee Rights Lawsuit?
If you cannot resolve the issue at work through other channels, you may want to file a lawsuit against your employer. You cannot sue in all cases. For instance, for workplace injuries, you give up the right to sue because of the benefits provided by workers’ compensation insurance, with some exceptions.
If you are allowed to file a lawsuit and choose to do so, the case will follow these general steps:
- Your lawyer files a complaint.
Before taking any legal action, be sure you have an experienced lawyer to advocate for you. They will file a complaint notifying the defendants, likely your employer, and outline the charges and what you expect to resolve the situation.
- Both sides investigate.
The complaint begins a period of investigation and discovery for legal teams on both sides. Your lawyer will continue investigating the incident, gathering evidence, and getting expert testimony. Both sides may also hold depositions and share information.
- Try for a settlement.
The investigation will likely turn up evidence that convinces the defendants to negotiate a settlement. This should include a resolution to the workplace dispute but may also include a damages amount.
- You go to trial.
If your lawyer cannot get a satisfactory settlement, you can take the defendants to court. Your lawyer argues on your behalf that the defendant violated your employee rights and owes you damages.
Can I Recover Damages?
Whether or not you can recover damages in an employee rights lawsuit depends on several factors. Not all cases involve monetary damage or harm. If it does, you may be able to recover damages for things like:
- A lost job or promotion
- Back wages for being terminated unlawfully
- Medical expenses related to a workplace injury not covered by workers’ compensation
- Mental or emotional suffering
- Damage to your professional reputation
Compensatory damages repay you for costs incurred as a result of the incident. You may also be awarded punitive damages in egregious cases. These damages are meant to punish the perpetrator and deter similar actions by others.
Many different laws cover workplace rights, and that means the damages, if any, varies by situation. The EEOC, for instance, caps the amount you can recover based on the size of the company sued. State laws may also impact damages.
Is There a Statute of Limitations on Employee Rights Lawsuits?
As with damages, the statute of limitations in workplace violations is highly variable. Any legal action always has a time limit, so check with a lawyer as soon as possible to avoid missing your opportunity. Statutes of limitations may be as short as 180 days or as long as a few years, depending on the laws, jurisdiction, and incident.
If you think you have grounds for an employee rights lawsuit, contact an experienced lawyer immediately. They can explain the laws and your options and provide expert advice. If you go through with a lawsuit, they will guide you through the process.