Employment discrimination cases can get complicated, and complications take time. Just how long does an employment discrimination case take from start to finish? As is often the case, the answer is, it depends. A number of factors can dictate the duration of an employment discrimination case.
These include the skill and expertise of legal representation as well as particular nuances, such as whether the law requires filing a charge with a government agency before pursuing litigation. Depending on these factors, an employment discrimination case can take 2 to 3 years, or longer, to reach a suitable resolution.
Factors Dictating the Duration of Employment Discrimination Case
Deadlines are one of the main factors that determine how long a discrimination case will take. When a case involves working with a governmental agency, usually the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), certain deadlines must be observed in order for a charge to be timely. If deadlines are missed, employees can run the risk of losing the opportunity to have their complaint heard and investigated.
Almost all federal employment discrimination cases require filing a charge with the EEOC, initially, before a case can be adjudicated in a court of law. The one exception is the Equal Pay Act (EPA), a law which prohibits different payment and wages for men and women who work in the same workplace performing equal work. In addition most state employment discrimination laws require a charge to be filed with a state government agency before an employee can pursue litigation under state law.
Also, its important to note that settlement could occur at anytime during an employment discrimination case. In order for settlements to happen, each party must be willing to come to an agreement which both can adhere to even after the matter is settled. The duration of settlements, too, can vary depending on how quickly an agreement that that pleases both parties can be reached.
EEOC Timeliness and Deadlines
Generally, charges filed under EEOC enforcement must be completed within 180 days of the last date of any alleged discrimination or harassment incident. If a state or local law prohibiting the same offense is in existence, in most cases, the deadline can be extended to 300 days. Since the EPA does not require filing a charge with the EEOC, a different deadline applies. Employees have two years from the last date of wage or pay discrepancy to file a lawsuit in a court of law under the act.
The EEOC is required by law to give notice of its determination based on the charge an employee has filed no more than 180 days after the date of filing. If the agency grants a notice of right to sue, an aggrieved employee has 90 days to file a lawsuit. Keep in mind that this process is essential for charges of discrimination based on race, color, national origin, age, sex, religion, genetic information or disability.
Time and Duration of an Employment Discrimination Lawsuit
Once a lawsuit is filed, an employer, as defendant, has 30-60 days to file an answer depending on the rules of procedure governing the court in which the lawsuit is filed. The next step in the process is a time period called discovery in which both sides gather information from various sources to support their case. Discovery may come in the form of witness deposition, requests for employment records and investigations of public records.
The duration of the discovery period is governed by court rules of procedure. In some cases, the period could last as long as 7 months. During this time, the court may order the parties to attend mediation sessions in order to try to settle the case out of court. Generally this is a favorable arrangement for the defending party since the adjudication process can be lengthy and costly. However, it may also be the case that one or both parties do not wish to settle, but rather wishes to see the case all the way through to a successful ruling in its favor.
Easily, the cumulative time periods and deadlines described up to this point could prolong a typical employment discrimination case for more than two years. Readers should keep in mind that this descriptions only takes into account the earliest stages of a basic employment discrimination case without intervening circumstances such as continuances on the part of either party or other procedural matters which would further extend the amount of time necessary for the major aspects of a case to proceed.
At this point, the defense may attempt to end the case by filing certain motions, such as a motion for summary judgment. Under these circumstances, the case could come to a close in the defendant’s favor, if the judge grants the summary judgement and the employee decides not appeal. If not, the case will proceed to trial.
Trial, Post-trial and Appeals in an Employment Discrimination Case
Once the case reaches its first trial date, it could be well into the to 2.5 year mark since the entire process began. Once the trial concludes, each party has the opportunity to file post-trial motions. In most cases, it is the party with the least favorable outcome who files a post-trial motion in order to attempt to alter the outcome in its favor. For instance, the losing party may move for a new trial, which would further prolong the case.
What definitely pushes an employment discrimination case into multiple years is the appeal process. If the losing party decides to appeal, a whole new phase begins, this time in a court of appeals. Durations and deadlines follow a new set of procedural rules. For instance, both parties generally have a certain number of days to file briefs once the appeal is filed and prior to oral arguments. Once the appeals court issues its decision, either party has the right to file new motions or to appeal further, with each alternative potentially lengthening the duration of the case.
How Long Does an Employment Discrimination Case Take From Start to Finish?
Clearly, an employment discrimination case, is not a quick and simple process. For this reason, any employee advised to seek competent legal representation would be wise to do so. The assistance of an experienced attorney or team of attorneys with extensive efficient litigation skills could prove invaluable no matter how long an employment discrimination takes from start to finish.