The Basics of Litigation - From Complaint to Trial


Step 1: An employee files a complaint.

What is a complaint?

A complaint is where an employee states the factual and legal basis for their claim against their employer. An employee's filing of a complaint begins the formal legal process.

Where does a complaint get filed?

An employee's complaint gets filed in the Court.

How does an employer learn about an employee's complaint?

After an employee files their complaint, a copy of the employee's complaint is “served on” the employer. This means that a copy of the employee's complaint is formally delivered to the employer. This ensures that the employer knows about the employee's complaint.

Step 2: The employer files an answer to the employee's complaint.

What is an answer?

An answer is the employer's response to the employee's complaint. In its answer, an employer can admit or deny the employee's allegations and/or assert defenses to the employee's claims.

When is an employer's answer due?

An employer's answer to an employee's complaint is due within 30 days of the service of the employee's complaint.

Step 3: Discovery

The next stage in the litigation process is the discovery phase. This is the phase of litigation where the employee and the employer seek to find evidence that supports their claims or defenses.

Employers and employees are able to utilize many tools to gather evidence. The parties can:

  1. Ask their opponent for specific documents.

  2. Ask their opponent to answer specific questions in writing.

  3. Ask their opponent specific questions at a deposition.

  4. Ask their opponent to admit certain facts.

  5. Ask third party witnesses for specific documents.

  6. Ask third party witnesses questions at a deposition.

  7. Ask expert witnesses questions at a deposition.

Step 4: Trial

A trial is the last stage of the litigation proceedings. At trial, an employee states their claims and must put forth evidence to prove that the employer violated the law. Conversely, at trial the employer will attempt to disprove the employee's claims, undermine the employee's claims, or put forth defenses to the employee's claims. At the conclusion of the parties' trial, the jury renders a verdict for or against the employee.

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