Frequently Asked Questions
Do I have a case?
During your free case evaluation, we will evaluate the merits of your case and help you determine whether it is ultimately worthwhile to pursue.
What is employment discrimination? How can it be proven?
Employment discrimination is when an employee is treated differently due to being a member of a “protected class” of people, that is, on the basis of gender, disability, age, national origin, race, religion, or ethnicity, or when an employer’s policies have a negative impact on one or more protected classes.
What laws protect me from workplace discrimination?
There are a number of laws which exist to protect employees:
Fair Employment and Housing Act: This law prohibits workplace discrimination based on disability, age, race, color, religion, gender, national origin, and sexual orientation. This law applies to California employers who employ at least 5 employees. The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) is enforced by The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).
Title VII: This law prohibits workplace discrimination based on color, religion, race, national origin, and sex. It applies to private sector employers with at least 15 employees, as well as public sector employers. Title VII is enforced by The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission).
Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA): The FMLA dictates that employers with 50 or more employees must give them up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave (in a 12 month period) for birth or adoption of a child, or a serious health condition requiring a leave of absence, or the care of a child, parent, or spouse with a serious health problem.
Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA): Prohibiting discrimination against employees who are at least 40 years old, the ADEA applies both to private sector employers with over 20 employees and all public sector employers.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Prohibiting discrimination based on mental or physical disability, the ADA applies to public sector employers, and private sector employers with more than 15 employees. Some states have stricter laws.
Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA): The FLSA sets minimum wage and overtime rates and regulates employment of children. It applies to educational institutions, hospitals, public sector, and private sector employers with at least 2 employees which are engaged in interstate commerce and have a business volume of over $500,000/year. A number of states have laws applying to all businesses of any size.
Immigration Reform & Control Act (IRCA): The IRCA prohibits hiring of illegal aliens, and prohibits discrimination against aliens lawfully admitted to the US on the basis of their citizenship status.
Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA): The EPPA keeps employers from requiring prospective hires or employees to submit to lie detector tests.
Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA): The PDS prohibits prospective and current employers from discriminating based on employee pregnancy or medical conditions related to childbirth.
How does the trial process work?
California courts take approximately one to two years to get matters to trial. During this timeframe, you and your former employer will ask questions of one another in writing to prepare for trial. This is called written discovery, and we will work closely with you to truthfully answer the employer’s questions and simultaneously protect your legal rights. At the same time, we will ask your former employer difficult questions to establish your claims.
After written discovery, depositions are taken. Depositions are verbal questions where the parties will ask one another questions in front of a court reporter, who will transcribe what each party says. Once again, we will work closely with you to prepare you for your deposition, and tell you what questions to expect. We will also take your former employers deposition(s), to establish that the reason they gave for your termination was not truthful.
Sometimes, in an effort to avoid trial, employers will then file a motion for summary judgment. This is a request to the Court to dismiss your case without a trial based on what was said in written discovery and during your deposition. At Panitz Law Group APC, we are experts at successfully opposing motions for summary judgment, and we have an incredibly high success rate at beating summary judgment.
At trial, you will testify, and we will call the other witnesses we need to establish each element of your claims against your former employer. In addition, we often use the admissions of your former employer from written discovery and depositions to establish your claims.
What are Mediation and Arbitration?
Mediation is a process that helps parties to a legal matter resolve the dispute without going through a trial. Mediation often helps both parties obtain faster and less costly results than would have been achieved by going to trial. The majority of mediated cases are successful in reaching settlement. The mediation process is 100% confidential, and a mediator is not permitted to disclose mediation content unless all parties give their consent to do so. Information from the mediation cannot be used as evidence in the legal case. Attending mediation is usually voluntary, though sometimes a legal authority may require mediation. However even when attendance is required, each party’s decision about settling, and the terms of settlement, is voluntary.
Arbitration is another means of resolving legal disputes. Arbitration is less formal, less costly and less time-consuming than traditional litigation. Arbitration is different than mediation in that parties agree to submit their dispute to an impartial arbitrator who has been authorized to resolve the dispute with a binding and final decision. Arbitration commonly takes place over a number of months, instead of the multiple years often required to complete a court case.
Arbitration takes place in a conference room rather than a court. Courtroom evidence rules are not strictly applicable, so there is usually no significant motion practice. Neither do formal discovery rules apply, though the arbitrator may allow for some discovery, like production of relevant documents and sworn depositions. Written transcripts are not required.
Should I settle my case, or go to trial?
The decision of whether to settle your case lies with one person – you. Based on the responses to discovery and deposition testimony, we can provide you with a good idea of the value of your case, and advise you whether your former employer’s settlement offer is reasonable. More than ninety percent of cases settle before trial. This is because the adverse publicity, as well as the cost and uncertainty of going to trial is too big a risk for many employers.
Often, cases are referred to mediation before trial. Mediation is a process by which a confidential summary of your case is submitted to an independent third-party mediator, who is familiar with the relevant law implicated by your claims. The employer also submits a confidential summary of its defenses to the mediator. The mediator can only share confidential information with the other side with your specific permission, and nothing said during mediation can be used at trial.
This way the sides can explore settlement without risk, and if your case does not settle at mediation, the matter simply proceeds to trial. Keep in mind that your personal appearance is required at your deposition, at mediation, and during trial.