For a person who’s never pursued legal action against an employer, it might come as a surprise that one actually needs to obtain a “right-to-sue” letter. This is America after all. Isn’t everyone born with the right to sue whoever they want? As with all areas of the law, the answer is deeply complicated.
This article was written to discuss the basics of right-to-sue letters in a brief and general way. Keep reading to learn whether you should obtain a right-to-sue, or if you should hire a lawyer first (who will then obtain the right-to-sue letter for you).
If you are dealing with an employment issue (i.e. harassment, discrimination, wrongful termination, etc.) you have the right to pursue legal action without the help of an attorney. Obviously, we never recommend that option. It’s always a good idea to reach out to a law firm to discuss the facts of your case, and find out what an attorney thinks about your situation. If you’ve got a case worth fighting for, you don’t have to go it alone. Read this article, then contact our office to schedule a case evaluation.
What is a Right to Sue Letter, and Where do I get One?
In some situations, you need to obtain “permission” from a Government agency before you move forward with an employment lawsuit. Most harassment and discrimination cases require this. A right-to-sue letter is simply the “permission” to move forward in court with your case.
In California, right-to-sue letters are issued by by either the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). One of these agencies will investigate the employee’s claim, and in some cases, file a lawsuit on their behalf at the end of the investigation. If you are in CA, generally you would get a right-to-sue from the DFEH. If you want to know which agency you should go to, read this article here.
However, if an employee does not wish to wait for either agency to complete an investigation, he or she can request an immediate right-to-sue. Usually, you must obtain a right-to-sue letter from the DFEH within one year of the adverse employment action. Once the letter is issued, the employee has a limited number of days to file suit in a court of law. So, if you rushed out and got your own right-to-sue letter, you need to find a lawyer ASAP!
Should I Request a Right-to-Sue Letter, Or Should My Lawyer Handle It?
The process of obtaining a right-to-sue letter is relatively easy. However, if you are planning to sue your employer, we highly recommend that you talk to an attorney first. If you have a case worth pursuing, your lawyer can handle all the technical aspects of filing the case, including acquiring your right-to-sue. We do this all the time for our clients.
This is actually much safer option as well. We constantly see employees who screw up their right-to-sue letter. They click the wrong boxes and ignore the important parts of their case. So don’t be impatient, get a lawyer first.
A lawsuit can be a long and grueling process, even with the help of a great attorney. Some employees will do some preliminary legal research, decide they can handle the case themselves, then quickly find themselves overwhelmed by the technicalities of dealing with the process. Sometime they’ll get overwhelmed dealing with court clerks — long before they even see the inside of a courtroom.
Our office often fields calls from employees who file a case on their own, then have a preliminary court date in a week or two and are suddenly desperate for the help of an attorney. We highly recommend that you contact an attorney before you find yourself in too deep.
Contact Our Office to Schedule a Consultation
If you are unsure whether you should request a right-to-sue letter on your own or have an attorney do it, take it as a sign that you should contact a professional. Often, our attorneys take cases on a contingency basis, which means the client doesn’t pay out of pocket fees. Rather, the attorney is paid with proceeds from the settlement or judgment. If you find you’re having difficulty getting an attorney to take your case, it might be a sign that your case isn’t that strong to begin with.
If you have questions about obtaining a right-to-sue letter, or some other area of employment law, contact the Bohm Law Group to find out how we can help.