After Harassment, Discrimination, Retaliation or Wrongful Termination, All Roads Don’t Lead to the Courthouse

November 8th, 2022

You’ve likely heard some variation of the adage, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” When we meet people who’ve experienced workplace harassment, discrimination, retaliation, or wrongful termination, many of them arrive believing the only tool that can obtain justice is the hammer of litigation. Many more victims of wrongful employment actions never contact a lawyer because they mistakenly assume that hiring one means a lawsuit is inevitable.

The reality is that wronged employees have plenty of tools other than litigation if they want to hold their employers accountable for the financial, emotional, reputational, and other damages they caused. If aversion to a lawsuit is holding you back from arranging a free consultation with one of our employment attorneys, please understand that all roads to justice don’t lead to the courthouse.

Litigation Is Rarely the First Option

Not only is litigation far from the only option for resolving an employment dispute, it is also rarely the first option. Most lawsuits aim to resolve conflicts or hold parties responsible for their wrongful actions through settlements or after trials. But most lawsuits (other than when immediate intervention is required to protect or preserve a party’s rights) proceed only after other efforts to resolve conflicts fail. 

That’s because litigation – while sometimes necessary – can be lengthy, costly, and emotionally taxing. It also involves significant uncertainty, as there’s no such thing as a “slam-dunk” case, no matter how egregious the underlying conduct may have been. Significantly, litigation is a public process. What was a private dispute is now out in the open. 

If all other attempts to resolve your employment dispute fail, litigation – despite its less- than-appealing qualities – may be the only way to vindicate your rights and obtain the relief, remedies, and compensation you deserve. And if you reach the courthouse steps, you will not be alone because your attorney will be in your corner all the way. But before reaching the courthouse steps, your attorney will undoubtedly explore all other options for achieving your goals.

Leverage Can Deter Litigation

These options begin with negotiations with your current or former employer. After you’ve determined your goals – getting your job back, back pay, front pay, an apology or admission of wrongdoing – your attorney can develop and implement a strategy to exert maximum leverage over the employer when negotiating the terms of a severance or settlement. And if you have potential or viable claims against your employer for discrimination, harassment, retaliation, or wrongful termination, you have plenty of leverage.

No business wants the uncertainty, disruption and potential financial or reputational damage that are byproducts of employment litigation. Employers value avoiding such unattractive consequences. If an employer worries that you may have viable claims, offering you an attractive severance package or agreeing to other settlement demands in exchange for claim waivers can be a wise investment. Similarly, your employer may want to ensure that you refrain from publicizing your allegations and compensate you for keeping them confidential. 

Given these circumstances, there’s a significant chance you’ll be able to obtain the justice you seek through negotiation rather than litigation. And even if you fail to resolve your claims before you file a lawsuit, your case can settle at any time, even after a trial starts.

Meeting With a Lawyer Doesn’t Mean You’ll Become a Litigant

No matter how righteously indignant you are about the way your employer treated you and no matter how strong your claims may be, the thought of lawsuits and courtrooms, of questions from a hostile attorney about your already traumatic experience, of unwanted attention or publicity, may deter you from entertaining the thought of meeting a lawyer. But this can be a costly mistake; one that deprives you of an opportunity to obtain justice and vindication without litigation. As non-litigious as you may be, remember that meeting with a lawyer doesn’t mean that you’ll become a litigant.