Assessing the Decision: Is It Worth Suing Your Employer?

An employment lawyer deciding if it is worth suing your employer

A lawyer discussing with a client if it is worth suing their employerYour employer has discriminated against you, unfairly withheld your wages, or fostered a hostile and harassing work environment. In these and other similar situations, you have legal rights, and the most natural forum to assert them is in the courtroom. To get your case before a judge, you must file and litigate a lawsuit.

Before rushing off to your nearest Florida employment lawyer and filing a case against your employer, stop and ask yourself, “Is it worth suing your employer?” Just as you should not embark on a new career or go back to school without carefully weighing the costs and benefits, you should also consider the costs and benefits of filing and litigating an employment law case.

The costs you could face include investments in your time, finances, emotional condition, and professional reputation. A clear picture of these various expenses is essential to deciding whether to file suit against your employer.

Risk Assessment: Weighing the Odds of Success

There may be numerous reasons to sue your employer. Before you do, the first question to ask is simple: “What are the chances that this case will succeed?” 

People in different circumstances will define success in different ways. For example, if your employer unlawfully withheld your pay for too long, success means getting the wages you earned and deserve.

For a sexual harassment victim, success may mean having the harassing behavior stopped or the perpetrator fired. Other victims may want their employer exposed for allowing such a toxic work environment. Still, others in this situation might say that success involves receiving financial compensation.

Whatever your definition of success is, you will want to visit with your attorney and discuss whether your desired outcome is reasonably achievable. If it is not, you may decide the costs are too great to justify pursuing a lawsuit against your employer. 

The best time to discover this is early in your case, before you have invested too much time, energy, and resources.

Evaluating Your Case: Legal Strength and Potential Outcomes

One of the primary considerations in deciding whether to sue your employer is evaluating the likelihood that your case will succeed. This begins with an honest assessment of the strength of the evidence in your case. If you file a case that does not settle, you should be prepared to litigate your dispute in court. There, your success will depend on numerous factors, including;

  • How credible you are as a witness
  • Your history as an employee
  • Any emails, videos, or other evidence that supports your allegations
  • Whether other witnesses are available and, if so, how credible they are
  • Your employer’s reputation

No single factor outweighs the other, although the more factors you have in your favor, the greater your chances of prevailing in your lawsuit.

While evaluating your case, you should also consider the likelihood that you will achieve the outcome you want. For example, even if you succeed in proving that your employer failed to pay your wages as required by law, it is highly unlikely that you will recover millions of dollars in penalties. 

An experienced employment law attorney in Florida who has handled numerous similar cases can provide a valuable and insightful perspective on your case. Specifically, a lawyer can help you understand how likely it is you will see the sort of results you would like to see.

Financial Implications of Suing Your Employer

A gavel resting on top of hundred dollar bills

Next, your cost-benefit analysis should consider the financial costs of suing your employer. A successful lawsuit can result in lost wages, compensatory damages, and payment of your attorney’s fees. In some situations, you could recover punitive damages as well.  Of course, there are some cases where you might be responsible for the employer’s fees and costs if you file a lawsuit and lose.  These are issues an experienced employment lawyer can discuss with you.

Employment law attorneys generally work on either an hourly basis or a contingency basis. If your lawyer charges an hourly fee, you can expect to pay a retainer upfront and make regular payments as your case goes on. You may be able to recoup these fees at the end of your case.

Attorneys who work on a contingency basis do not charge any retainer or upfront fees. Instead, they receive a portion of your recovery at the end of your case. If they do not obtain compensation for you, you do not owe any fees. 

Emotional and Professional Considerations

When deciding whether to sue your employer, you should also consider the emotional and professional toll that litigation can take on you and your family. 

A lawsuit can be stressful for you and your loved ones. This stress increases as court hearings and your trial date nears and can potentially lead to anxiety, sleeplessness, and difficulty concentrating at home and at work.

Beyond this, news of your lawsuit can spread among your colleagues in the industry. You might notice that some individuals who associate freely with you are more reserved and hesitant to do so.  

These considerations should not dissuade you from exercising your legal rights. However, you will want to be prepared for these potential consequences and work with your Florida employment law attorney on strategies to mitigate their effect.

The Impact on Future Employment Opportunities

Initiating a lawsuit against your employer can also affect your future employment prospects. Word of your lawsuit may spread to other potential employers, especially if your industry is close-knit or if your employer is particularly prominent. This could lead some potential employers to hesitate in interviewing or hiring you.

This potential consequence can be effectively mitigated by working with an employment law attorney to discuss whether litigation or a confidential pre-suit process is better suited to your needs and goals.  

What Is the Legal Process for Suing an Employer?

A scale sitting in top of legal textbooks in a law office

Your decision to sue your employer begins with drafting your complaint, which is the legal document that outlines your grievances. This gets filed with the court and served on your employer. Your employer then has an opportunity to respond to your allegations in writing. These initial steps can take two to three months to complete.

Next, there will be several case management conferences and status hearings at which you and your employer will identify the issues in your case. During this phase, you and your employer will also exchange information in a process known as discovery. This is where the facts of the case get developed.  

It is typical for one or both parties to try to obtain a dispositive ruling from the court that resolves the case in their favor during this stage. In all, this phase typically lasts several months.

If the case continues past this second phase and no settlement is reached, your case will eventually proceed to trial. As the one bringing the lawsuit, you and your lawyer have the burden of proving your claim is more likely true than not. If you do so, you will prevail, and appropriate damages may be awarded. A case can take several years to get to trial, depending on how busy the court is and the issues present in the case.

Alternatives to Litigation

In considering whether to bring suit against your employer, remember that there are ways to resolve workplace disputes besides taking the matter to court. 

For example, most employers offer some internal grievance resolution process. This could involve a formal complaint made to your human resources department that is then addressed internally. Alternatively, it could be as simple as an informal meeting with your manager.

A lawyer can also prepare an informal pre-suit demand package for you, inviting the employer to consider the issues and negotiate a far resolution before litigation is initiated.  

Arbitration is another alternative to traditional courtroom proceedings. With this process, you and your employer submit arguments and evidence to a third-party arbiter. After reviewing the parties’ submissions, the arbiter enters a judgment resolving the dispute. 

Mediation is yet another potential way to resolve your workplace dispute short of a trial. The parties select a third-party mediator who then fosters a discussion between the two sides. The goal is to reach a resolution to the dispute that both parties feel addresses their concerns and resolves the complaint fairly.

Each of these forms of dispute resolution has advantages and disadvantages. They are often less costly and less confrontational than a traditional lawsuit. You are not as likely to face professional or other repercussions, and your efforts to resolve the issues you have with your employer are often confidential.

However, there may be costs and fees associated with hiring a mediator or arbitrator. Moreover, if the statute of limitations expires while you are trying to negotiate a resolution to your claim, you may be left without any legal recourse. You will likely need to file a lawsuit if the statute of limitations is close to expiring, even if your intent is to avoid trial.

Being honest with your lawyer about your goals will help your attorney properly advise you of the options that are available to you to reach your objectives.

When to Talk to an Attorney

An attorney’s assistance and advice are crucial in helping you make an informed decision about filing a lawsuit against your employer. The sooner you speak with an attorney, the more time you have to consider your options and answer the question, “Is it worth suing your employer.” 

If you decide to file suit, having retained an attorney quickly means that your lawyer has a greater chance of securing favorable evidence to help your claim.

Wenzel Fenton Cabassa has the experience and resources to help you protect your rights. We can assist you in deciding whether to sue your employer for:

Whether through a settlement or litigation, Wenzel Fenton Cabassa is committed to helping you get the legal redress you deserve for your employer’s misconduct. Contact us today.

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