Every client at our Cleveland employment discrimination law firm has asked us this question in some form. The answer depends on many factors, and the ultimate choice to proceed with a discrimination lawsuit rests with each client themselves.
As attorneys, we can only advise people on what their legal options are. We guide clients toward their final decision by having them answer three sets of preliminary questions related to their experiences in the workplace, what they have done to resolve the issue, and their willingness to take on a tough challenge. Suing your employer makes the most sense when you can confidently answer yes when asked if you have a strong case, whether you have gone through your employer’s complaint process, and if you are ready to fight hard to hold your employer accountable.
Sometimes, the only option is to sue your former employer if you wish to right a wrong that has been committed against you.
Do You Have a Strong Case?
The overwhelming majority of employment discrimination cases involve violations of federal and state laws that exist to protect workers. Our Cleveland employment discrimination law firm handles cases for victims of discrimination based on the following characteristics:
- Race and ethnicity;
- National origin;
- Sex, including unequal pay for men and women doing the same jobs for the same employer;
- Sexual orientation;
- Gender identity;
- Religion, including refusals to accommodate religious practices;
- Age when a worker is older than 40;
- Disability, including refusals to make reasonable accommodations; and
- Military service, including not holding jobs for members of the National Guard or the military reserves who get called up to serve on active duty.
Federal and state laws define what is considered discriminatory. Some laws and regulations require evidence that discriminatory comments and behaviors were severe and frequent enough to create a hostile work environment. Others require proof that decisions to hire, fire, or promote were made for discriminatory reasons. Still others ask for evidence that an employer did not consider a request for an accommodation in good faith. Note that what constitutes a reasonable accommodation depends on many factors such as cost to the employer, job responsibilities and impact on coworkers.
Consulting with an employment discrimination attorney will help you understand whether your situation could be addressed by filing a lawsuit. Speaking with a lawyer will also allow you to understand how to document discriminatory actions.
There is no “magic formula” that defines whether you have a strong case. Each case is different and is based on very complex facts. If an attorney feels you have a likelihood of success, you will likely be able to find an attorney to assist you in filing suit against your former employer.
Have You Taken the Proper Steps to Resolve the Situation Without Suing Your Employer?
It is wise to exhaust whatever remedies are available to you prior to filing a lawsuit. Employers must have a procedure for reporting discrimination or harassment and must investigate claims of discrimination or harassment that it receives. Therefore, you’ll want to report any alleged discrimination or harassment to your employer. An employer cannot remedy something it does not know about. There are very limited exceptions to this reporting rule so please make sure to consult with an attorney if you believe that you don’t need to report discrimination or harassment to your employer. An employer may take steps to remedy the discrimination or harassment, making it unnecessary to file a lawsuit. If your employer does not handle it correctly once it has been made aware of it, you may have grounds for a lawsuit.
Information related to how to report discrimination in the workplace should be in the employee handbook you received when you were hired. If you do not know where to find such policies, ask your supervisor, a coworker or your Human Resources Department. If you did not receive such a document, check with human resources or a trusted supervisor to learn about the process.
You may find it helpful to consult with a Cleveland employment discrimination attorney before taking the first step specified by your employer. A lawyer will explain your rights and the applicable laws in plain English.
Our attorneys can be hired on an hourly basis to assist you with the reporting process. Enlisting an attorney can be helpful when navigating this process, as we have direct knowledge of the type of information that should be reported to your employer. Having this assistance can be essential when an employer does not meet its obligations to investigate the complaint and attempt to remedy the discrimination or harassment.
Complaints that do not receive an adequate response from an employer should be taken to the federal or state agency that administers the applicable antidiscrimination law. For instance, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission handles Charges of Discrimination related to several types of discrimination, including harassment based on sex, disability, religion, gender and pregnancy. Claims can also be filed with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, which enforces Ohio’s anti-discrimination laws. Contacting the right agency is another thing an attorney will be able to help with. Our attorneys can advise you as to where to file a Charge of Discrimination based on your particular situation.
Are You Prepared to File Suit?
If you have exhausted all other options and only one option remains, it may be time to file suit against your former employer. This would allow you to hold your employer accountable for anything it may have done to violate the law.
Lawsuits typically take a while and can last for years. Some are resolved much more quickly. If you commit to filing suit against your employer, prepare for it to take a while and prepare to assist your attorney in litigating your case by providing as much information as possible. Being available to your attorney and being responsive will make it more likely that you will have a positive outcome.