Although every wrongful termination and employment law case is based on different facts, most cases proceed according to our firm’s standard procedure.
The first step is the intake call, which is conducted by our firm’s paralegal. We will collect your basic contact information, including your full name, email address, and telephone number, as well as the name of your employer, your job duties, and the reason you are calling (i.e. termination, harassment, discrimination, retaliation, etc.) Our paralegal will try to understand the basic facts of your case, and whether you have a legal problem that our firm may be able to help you with. Sometimes we will want to see documents at this stage if they are important to understanding your situation. For example, if you have written an email reporting unlawful activity, we will definitely want to review that and any response from the employer.
After the intake call, an attorney will review the details. If we are interested in your case, we will set an appointment to meet in person or by video conference. A decision will usually be made at the first meeting whether we are able to take your case. In certain instances we will want to see additional documents before making a decision.
Once we decide to accept your case, you will sign a contingency fee agreement, and releases for us to obtain your personnel file and relevant medical records. We will collect all documents in your possession that relate to your employment, whether you believe they are important or not. We will need all work emails, text messages with co-workers or supervisors, paystubs, performance reviews, termination documents, employee handbooks and policies, medical records related to any employment disability or injury, including mental health records if relevant to your case. We basically need anything and everything related to the employment. Don’t worry though if you don’t have many documents, as we are able to obtain most documents directly from the employer.
The next step will be to request your personnel file from your employer as permitted by the California Labor Code section 1198.5. The employer has 30 days to provide your file. If they fail to provide the file within 30 days, we will make a second request. In the unlikely event the employer refuses to produce the file, we can add a claim for violation of Labor Code section 1198.5, which gives every employee the right to a copy of his or her personnel file.
At this point, we will thoroughly review all the documents from you and your employer. This will help us better undertstand the facts of your case. We will then draft your lawsuit, which is called a complaint. The lawsuit is filed in the Superior Court of California. If you have signed a valid arbitration agreement, we will sometimes proceed directly to arbitration.
After filing your lawsuit, we will conduct written discovery, which allows us to propound questions to the employer that must be answered under oath. These are called Interrogatories. The parties can also request that the other side admit or deny certain matters under oath. These are called Requests for Admission. We will also request specific documents that we need to prove your case. After receipt of written answers to our questions, we will take the depositions of persons that have knowledge of your case, including your supervisor, co-workers, and anyone else that was a witness to your employment situation. The employer will also serve interrogatories and requests for documents to us, on your behalf. We will work with you to prepare answers to these questions and locate any additional documents.
At this point, the Court will likely set your case for trial within about 12 months of when the case was filed, although the timing can vary. Many Court’s will order the parties to attend a mediation in an effort to settle the case. Most employment law cases settle during or after mediation, and within six to eighteen months of when the case began. Cases may be longer or shorter, depending on the particular situation.
If your case does not settle, we will continue with discovery and prepare for trial. As we get closer to trial, the case may settle. If not, we will try your case before a jury.
As all cases are somewhat different, this is a general outline of how a wrongful termination case will proceed. If you do have a case, be sure to hire an attorney that specializes in employment law.