What is your goal?
What do you want to accomplish with this lawsuit? This question is important because it will give you and your case the right direction and will help you have the right strategy when handling your case, regardless of which direction it takes (i.e. early settlement, mediation, arbitration or trial) and how it turns out. Just as importantly, answering this question will ensure that you are not pursuing a case against your employer for the wrong or unrealistic reasons.
Here are some of the most common possible goals you might have when suing your former employer for wrongful termination, some of which are better to have than others:
Your goal in pursuing a wrongful termination case is to be compensated for your losses and emotional distress.
This is the “best” and the most realistic goal to have. The law provides for damages to aggrieved employees, which may include past and future wage loss and emotional distress associated with losing a job, being discriminated or harassed at workplace, etc.
Your goal is to clear your name of any information in your personnel file that you believe is false and will hurt your job prospects in the future.
This is a legitimate goal, and it can be achieved as part of the settlement, where the parties would agree that as part of the deal your termination would be reclassified to resignation / lay-off, and certain documents in your file that reflect that you were fired will be destroyed or sealed. Again, the employer cannot be forced to do this, so there is no guarantee that this goal will be accomplished through suing the employer.
Your goals in suing your employer is to get your job back.
This is very unlikely to happen. Even if you win a large amount in court, no one can force your employer to take you back, except in cases where you are challenging your termination through an administrative hearing (public employees only) or through a union grievance. In the vast majority of other cases, not only the employer do not take the employee who sued them back, but they demand that as part of any settlement the employee would agree to never even apply for a job with that employer. This means that you should not expect to go back and work for the employer who you are suing after being fired from there.
Your goal in filing a case against your employer is to get the employer to admit that they were wrong in how they treated you.
This goal is very unlikely to be achieved. Typically, employers demand the non-admission of liability to be part of any settlement agreement. Further, even if you go to trial and you win, i.e. the jury or the judge find in your favor and award you a large sum of money, the employer still doesn’t have to recognize that they did anything wrong or apologize for anything to you. In fact, these types of admissions are very rare, and that’s not something you should expect to get.
Your goal is to make sure that what happened to you doesn’t happen to other employees at that company. This is only achievable if the company you are suing is small, and the impact of your lawsuit will be significant enough to spread all over the company and be well remembered by management as a painful lesson about how important it is to follow the low and not to illegally fire employees. Otherwise, at a larger company, where there is a higher turnover of managers and employees, your case will have a very limited “shelf life”.
Your goal is to not let your employer get away with firing you and punish them. I often hear people say this, but I never know what this means “not getting away”. The company will pay for defense, and eventually the case will be over one way or another. In a sense, unless it’s a very small company which fails just because of your claim against them, they will continue to operate after your case as over, just like they did before.
We hope that the above information will be useful to you in making the most informed decision about pursuing your case.