How long does a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit take?

How long does a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit take?

Individuals considering legal action for unjust dismissal often weigh success chances and potential compensation.

The prevalent concern is the inconvenience of prolonged legal processes.

Wrongful termination cases typically take at least a year, varying based on individuals, case complexities, and employer nature.

An image illustration of How long does a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit take
How long does a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit take
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What is Wrongful Termination?

Wrongful termination, within the context of U.S. employment, is governed by the at-will employment doctrine.

This doctrine implies that employers can terminate employees for any legal reasons, with illegal reasons encompassing violations of various employment laws.

Employment Laws that Protect Against Wrongful Termination

Civil rights legislation, notably the Civil Rights Act of 1964, has established protections against discriminatory employment practices.

Title VII of this act safeguards employees and job applicants from discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.

Subsequent employment legislation has further expanded these protections.

Presently, individuals are shielded from unlawful terminations based on a spectrum of factors, including ;

Sex, race, religion, ethnicity, age, national origin, disability, marital status, pregnancy, and genetic information.

Should an employer dismiss an employee on any of these prohibited grounds, it constitutes wrongful termination, potentially warranting legal action.

How Long Does a Wrongful Termination Case Take?

As for the duration of a wrongful termination case, it lacks a fixed timeframe.

Nevertheless, these cases typically endure longer than other civil proceedings.

They are typically filed under civil rights statutes, necessitating engagement with an administrative agency like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) before pursuing legal action in court.

Filing a Wrongful Termination Claim

To initiate a wrongful termination claim, you must start by filing a charge with the EEOC, detailing how your employer wrongfully terminated you.

The EEOC conducts an investigation, including interviews with your company and relevant witnesses.

If the EEOC finds no wrongful termination, it typically grants you the option to sue in federal court.

This process takes about six months, and you often need to wait the full duration before proceeding with a lawsuit.

EEOC Mediation and Settlement

In some instances, the EEOC may mediate the case, facilitating a meeting between you, your former employer, and a neutral third party to settle the dispute.

If successful, settling at mediation can expedite the resolution, with a settlement check received within a few months.

However, EEOC mediations are infrequent, and settlements tend to be lower.

Legal Proceedings and Court Duration

If your case progresses to federal court, the entire process is likely to take about a year, assuming it concludes at trial.

Most cases, though, settle before reaching trial.

The timeline depends on various factors, including the court process and how swiftly the EEOC investigates.

Typically, the investigation takes about six months, and the lawsuit, including finding a lawyer, filing, and initial discovery, spans another six months.

Most settlements occur around the time of or just after deposition proceedings.

Duration of Involvement for the Claimant

While the overall timeline might seem lengthy, claimants often have minimal involvement.

Your lawyer manages the substantial aspects of the process.

If your case doesn’t go to trial, you may only spend around ten hours providing information, answering questions, preparing for your deposition, and participating in the deposition itself.

Difficulty of Winning a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit

Wrongful termination cases are generally challenging to win, especially if success is defined as prevailing at trial.

Research suggests a low success rate at trial, ranging from 5-25% in employment cases.

However, if winning is defined as obtaining financial compensation, the odds are more favorable, with over 90% of cases settling.

Outcomes of Winning a Wrongful Termination Case

Winning a wrongful termination case through settlement results in financial compensation, forcing the employer to pay for damages caused by the unlawful termination.

If successful at trial, additional benefits include the employer covering attorney’s fees, particularly significant as many employment lawyers operate on a contingency fee basis (typically 33-40%).

Payment Structure in Wrongful Termination Lawsuits

Employment law cases, including wrongful termination, often don’t yield high settlements due to easily defined damages, primarily back pay.

Damages may include back pay, punitive damages, emotional distress damages, lost benefits, front pay, and attorney’s fees.

While back pay is usually the most relevant, other damages are reserved for more egregious cases, such as sexual assault.

An image illustration of Wrongful Termination Lawsuit Timeline
Wrongful Termination Lawsuit Timeline
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Average Settlement Amounts in Wrongful Termination Cases

Wrongful termination cases may not make individuals rich, with an average settlement award often cited around $40,000.

Companies, aware of the difficulty in proving employment cases, may offer settlements to avoid protracted legal battles.

Consulting an Employment Lawyer

Individuals who believe they’ve experienced wrongful termination are encouraged to consult with an employment lawyer.

Most employment lawyers offer free consultations and operate on a contingency fee basis, ensuring their services are free unless they successfully recover compensation from the employer.


The duration of a wrongful termination lawsuit can vary, encompassing several stages from filing a charge with the EEOC to potential court proceedings.

While the overall process may seem extended, ranging from months to possibly over a year.

It is crucial to recognize that individual involvement is often limited, with legal professionals handling the majority of the complexities.

The timeline hinges on factors such as EEOC investigations, potential mediations, and the likelihood of settling before reaching trial.

Understanding these variables helps manage expectations regarding the time commitment associated with pursuing a wrongful termination claim.


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