The legal process can seem to be quite complicated to those who are not intimately involved in it on a daily basis. More specifically, understanding employment law and how to protect oneself from discrimination is not easy for the common person to grasp if not acquainted with the process. The following scenario will provide insight on the steps involved in the legal process when attempting to ensure that one is treated equally in the workplace.
John is an employee of a private sector organization whom has decided to file a discrimination complaint against his employer. He believes that he has personally been discriminated against and has chosen to go through the legal process to remedy his situation. After a thorough review of the Title VII law, the federal law that prohibits most workplace harassment and discrimination, John has determined that his scenario fits into the category of discrimination (HR Hero, 2009).
The Legal Process
The first step of the legal process John must follow is to file a formal complaint of discrimination within 180 days of the incident with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC, 2009). Once the complaint is received, the EEOC will schedule an appointment with John to review the documentation that substantiates his claim. During the time that the EEOC is making the decision regarding acceptance of the complaint, John is tasked with exploring alternative resolutions including mediation. Mediation is usually a preferable alternative to a traditional EEOC investigation and to enforcement and litigation steps that may follow. Mediation allows the parties involved in a charge of discrimination to resolve their differences quickly and amicably without a determination by the EEOC on the merits of the case (EEOC, 2009). While mediation is in process, investigation of the claim is placed on hold.
If mediation does not prove to be an agreeable resolution, the next step is that the EEOC will then begin an investigation of the claim to determine the legitimacy. As part of the investigation, the EEOC will notify the employer of the complaint within 10 days of receipt of the complaint and provides them the opportunity to respond to the alleged complaint. The employer’s response is known as a Position Statement (EEOC, 2009). After the employer responds to the allegations, the data is reviewed and conciliation is the next step.
Conciliation is another alternate method of resolution similar to mediation with a few differences. Both parties agree to use a conciliator who meets with the parties separately in an attempt to resolve the existing differences (Wikipedia, 2008). This method is different from an arbitrator because the conciliator has no legal authority and does not seek evidence or call witnesses. The conciliator does not document a decision or make an award. This process differs from mediation because the main goal is to conciliate making concessions. During mediation both parties sit at the table facing each other; however, most of the time during conciliation both parties seldom face each other.
The final step of the administrative process is to send a letter to the complainant advising the right to sue. This letter is also known as the 90 day letter and this serves as official notice that the complainant can now begin the process of filing and summons and complaint within the U.S. District Court (EEOC, 2009).
The Civil Litigation Process
If John is not satisfied with alternate dispute resolution methods, he can choose to begin the civil litigation process per the receipt of the 90 day letter (U.S. Courts System, 2007). Once the complainant files within the U.S. District Court, he or she becomes the plaintiff and the respondent’s title becomes defendant. The court receives the summons and notifies the defendant allowing them a 30-60 day window to answer the summons (U.S. Courts System, 2007). The courts then begin the discovery phase requiring all documents relevant to the case to be produced for evidence. The court also takes sworn depositions as needed to understand the details of the situation. Once this process is completed, a motion is filed for summary judgment and a pre-trial is held to baseline issues and determine the witnesses. A trial date is then set as either a bench trial or trial by jury and both sides are heard. After all facts have been presented, a verdict is delivered (U.S. Courts System, 2007) .
If John is not satisfied with the verdict, he can file an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals within 30 days of the verdict. A Petition of Appeal must be submitted within 60 days outlining the reason for the appeal. Once received, the U.S. Court of Appeals issues a decision within 3-6 months subsequent of the receipt of the petition (U.S. Courts System, 2007).
Finally, if John is still not satisfied with the decision, he can take his case through the highest level of court, the U.S. Supreme Court. In order to do so, the Supreme Court must request a Writ of Certiorari. This request requires the lower court to send the request in the given case for review (Wikipedia, 2008). This occurs as a result of a petition for Certiorari to be filed by the plaintiff advising why the case should be heard. The Supreme Court can then choose whether or not to hear the case and may grant oral arguments. If granted, both parties appear in front of the Supreme Court for oral arguments for the period of one hour. Once both parties are heard, the Supreme Court makes a final ruling on the case. At this point, any decision is final (U.S. Courts System, 2007).
The legal process available to employees is in place to ensure that discrimination does not take place in the work environment. Although, the process is long and involved, it is established and in effect to protect employees and ensure that everyone receives a fair judgment. John and any other employee who experiences discrimination by an employer can follow this legal process to remedy such situations that are unfair and unjust according to the employment laws in place.
HR Hero. (2009). Title VII from the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Retrieved from http://www.hrhero.com/topics/title7.html on March 7, 2009.
U.S. Courts System (2007). The appeals process. Retrieved from the U.S. Courts Systems web page: http://www.uscourts.gov/understand03/content_6_5.html on March 7, 2009
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (2009). Retrieved from http://www.eeoc.gov on March 7, 2009.
Wikipedia. (2008). Certiorari Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Certiorari on March 7, 2009.
Wikipedia. (2008) Conciliation. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conciliation on March 7, 2009.