Like almost everything with the law… it depends. Some wrongful termination lawsuits settle quicker than others. Here, we’ll discuss some of the factors that determine how long it will take to settle a wrongful termination lawsuit.
Charge of Discrimination
You must first file a charge of discrimination before you can file a lawsuit. You file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). You can co-file with the Florida Commission on Human Relations (“FCHR”), the state version of the EEOC. Filing a charge of discrimination exhausts your administrative remedies. It is a prerequisite to filing a wrongful termination lawsuit in state or federal court.
Claimants must allow the EEOC and/or the FCHR to investigate the claim for at least 180 days. After 180 days, if you haven’t gotten a determination, you can request a “right to sue” letter. This gives you the right to file a wrongful termination lawsuit.
In federal court, the judge will issue a scheduling order very early in the case. This is usually after the parties file a joint scheduling report. A joint scheduling report gives the court an idea of how long the parties expect the wrongful termination lawsuit to take.
A federal court scheduling order usually spans 12 months, start to finish. You can expect to be in front of a jury about a year after the lawsuit was filed. This doesn’t necessarily mean you case will take a year to settle. It just means you’ll be having a trial then, if settlement negotiations fail. Wrongful termination lawsuits can settle at anytime. Some settle days after filing of the wrongful termination lawsuit, some settle minutes before the jury returns with a verdict.
Florida state court is a little different. In state court, the parties must notice the case for trial before a scheduling order will be issued. Technically, under the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, the court must set the case for trial when the case is “at issue.” A case is at issue after any motions directed to the last pleading served have been disposed of.
A notice of trial must include how long the parties expect the trial to take. The court will then issue a uniform trial order. The uniform trial order states the important deadlines. There are deadlines for discovery, mediation, and expert witness disclosures. In most wrongful termination lawsuits in state court the parties do not notice the case for trial until discovery has been completed.
Discovery is one of the most important parts of a case. This is where the parties exchange information. The discovery period is made up of written discovery: interrogatories, requests for production, and request for admissions, as well as oral discovery in the form of depositions. The discovery period can take the longest, especially in complex cases with many witnesses.
Interrogatories, Requests for Production, and Request for Admissions must be answered within 30 days of service. Another 5-days is added by rule for mailing. Often times the parties request extensions of time to respond to written discovery. Usually, once the written discovery is received the parties take the depositions of the witnesses. Sometimes deposition scheduling can be difficult, especially in cases where there are multiple defendants.
At the close of the discovery period the defendant employer will almost alway file a motion for summary judgment in wrongful termination lawsuits. This is a dispositive motion, meaning that if the defendant employer wins the motion, the case is over. A summary judgment motion simply says to the court, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the defendant employer is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. In other words, there are no issues of material fact for a jury to decide, and the defendant should win as a matter of law.
In federal court, summary judgment is granted much more often than in state court. Florida state courts favor jury trials, including in wrongful termination cases.
Mediation is required in every case in Florida. Mediation is before a neutral, third party who attempts to facilitate a settlement between the parties. Attorney are usually split on mediation. In some cases it can be valuable, in others it can be a waste of time. Mediation usually takes between 2 to 4 hours, but it can take all day, especially if the parties are close to reaching a settlement.
During a mediation, both sides will present their case to the mediator. Here, the parties get a preview of the opening statements. Some attorneys don’t like to give too much information. They don’t want to “tip” their hand. The parties will then split up and the mediator will speak to each party privately. Mediation provides immediate feedback from the mediator, who doesn’t have a dog in the fight. If you have a good mediator, you can use this form of alternative dispute resolution to your advantage.
If mediation fails and summary judgment is denied, the case is going to trial. This means the case will be argued before a jury. Jury trials are rare. From the filing of the Complaint to a jury verdict can take anywhere from 12 to 16 months in federal court. It can take anywhere from 12 to 20 months in state court. Again, keep in mind these figures are just estimates, which depend largely on the complexity of the case, the attorneys, the judge, and the location. Cases can move much faster or much slower. I’ve seen cases that have been pending for 4 to 5 years, I’ve also settled cases within 20 days of filing the lawsuit.
How long it takes to settle a wrongful termination case depends on many factors, some of which you have no control over. Most plaintiff attorneys want to push their cases, while most defense attorneys want to slow things down.
If you have questions about wrongful termination lawsuits and how long they take please read our other articles on the subject. Also, please don’t forget to “like” us on Facebook and “subscribe” to our YouTube channel.