What To Expect If You Bring A Discrimination, Harassment Or Retaliation Claim
It takes courage to file a claim of workplace discrimination, harassment, or retaliation. At Porter Law, we believe it is important that you understand what will happen when you do so.
Tell Us Your Story
Typically, the first step is to schedule a consultation with a lawyer who has extensive knowledge of employment law. It is critically important not to hire just any lawyer, because if they do not know employment law, then they will not be able to represent you properly.
Once you find the right lawyer, they will meet with you – either in person, by phone, or by videoconference – and give you the chance to tell your story.
You can then develop a plan of action, which will depend on the merits of your claim, whether you are still working for your employer, and your personal situation and goals.
The Demand Letter
The next step is often for your lawyer to send a letter to your employer, explaining your concerns, and inviting an informal discussion about how to resolve the matter quickly.
That typically will involve a demand for payment of money by the employer in the form of severance, but if you are still employed there, it may also involve a demand that the employer take steps to fix the issues that you are having in your workplace.
If your lawyer and your employer are able to come to an agreement, it will typically be accompanied by a written separation or severance agreement.
Whether the situation also involves a resignation of your employment depends on the case and the amount of severance, but it is important to characterize any separation from your employment as involuntary so that you are able to collect unemployment benefits, which are typically not available if you quit.
A Claim With MCAD And The EEOC
If that does not work, the next step would be to file a claim with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
That process can take some time – years, in some cases – as both agencies are overworked and understaffed. However, there are opportunities for early mediation there so that your case may be resolved early.
If not, you and your lawyer will need to make a decision regarding whether to leave the case at the state agency or remove it and file the case in court, which you have a right to do under the law.
Filing In Court
If you decide to file in court, you will begin a process that may take several years to complete. The process will involve what is known as discovery, where you and the other side will exchange relevant documents (including medical records in many cases) and depositions, where each side can question the other under oath.
Ultimately, you have the right to your “day in court” – in other words, a trial before either a judge or jury. However, before that happens, there will be plenty of opportunities to negotiate a resolution of your case with the other side.
Whether you will be awarded damages – and, if so, how much – depends on the facts of your case.
Potential areas of damages would include lost wages, as well as back pay and front pay for the money you did not earn due to a wrongful termination, emotional distress damages, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees. The amount of those damages would be up to the judge or jury.