Employee Information
Reality Check

You will make better decisions concerning your employment situation, if you consider the practical realities and difficulties in pursuing an employment discrimination case.

Some complainants develop unrealistic expectations about the monetary value of their cases. This may occur a result of news publicity about other cases where large amounts of money were awarded to complainants. What they may not consider adequately is that for each case where a large amount of money was won, there were more cases where small amounts of money were recovered, or the cases were unsuccessful. A reason that million dollar verdicts are in the news is because they are relatively unusual.

Some complainants expect employers to settle discrimination cases quickly due to fear of publicity. But some employers believe that if they settle discrimination cases easily, it will encourage more employees to complain of discrimination. Many employers take the position that they will "vigorously defend" against discrimination complaints. This means that they will retain large law firms to defend them, and they will not settle if at all until late in the litigation process when the evidence indicates that they may lose the case. News organizations are not usually interested in covering discrimination complaints unless they are unusual, or evidence of unlawful discrimination is apparent, or there has been a large monetary award. Complainants should consider that if they can't pay for attorney fees and litigation costs, it may be hard to find an attorney who will represent them. Litigation is very expensive and time-consuming, and the employer usually has much greater financial resources than the complainant.

Some complainants may not adequately consider what may be legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for the employment actions that they challenge. In an employment discrimination case the complainant has the burden of proof to show that the employer violated the law by discriminating against them due to their protected basis. It is not enough that the employment situation is unfair, it has to be unlawful for the complainant to win the case. In most cases, there are facts and arguments to support both of the opposing parties, and the issues are ultimately decided by judges or juries who may reach different conclusions. It is difficult to predict with certainty how particular cases will be decided in court, or to determine the monetary value of cases.

This reality check is not intended to discourage complainants from pursuing discrimination complaints, but rather is intended to encourage them to carefully and realistically evaluate all aspects of their cases, including strengths and weaknesses, and monetary value. Since complainants are usually under duress from their employment problems and not completely knowledgeable of the law, it is advisable for them to consult with other persons, and to seek legal advice from their own attorney about the best course of action to follow.

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