What to Expect When Filing an Employment Lawsuit in California

If you have suffered workplace discrimination, been wrongfully terminated from your job or not received the wages you are owed, you may be thinking about taking legal action against your employer. The idea of filing a lawsuit can seem scary at first, and you are likely to have many questions about how the legal process works. While each case is different, lawsuits typically share a similar framework. Understanding the main stages of the legal process can prepare you for what to expect.

Steps in the Lawsuit Process

The lawsuit process varies from case to case depending on the parties involved, the legal matters in question and the complexity of the facts. Here, we outline the basic chronology of a lawsuit that can be used as a point of reference. As a reminder, the person filing the lawsuit is known as the plaintiff, while the individual or entity being sued is referred to as the defendant.

1) Filing Court Papers: The first stage in the lawsuit process involves drafting and filing a formal legal complaint. The document explains the plaintiff’s legal claim against the defendant. An initial exchange of paperwork will specify and define the issues at play and the parties in dispute. If either side files a pre-answer motion, it will be resolved before the next step.

2) Discovery: Both sides exchange all relevant facts, evidence and documents in preparation for trial. Written discovery includes email and electronic information, along with written responses known as interrogatories. Depositions are a form of oral discovery in which questions are answered under oath with a court reporter present. Discovery can sometimes lead to a settlement.

3) Pre-Trial Motions: One or both parties may file a motion for summary judgment requesting the judge to determine whether it is possible for either side to win the case without going to trial. A summary judgment is a way to dispose of a case, or certain parts of it. Pre-trial motions can also ask the judge to help if the opposing side is not forthcoming with information.

4) Settlement: The majority of cases are resolved through settlements and never end up going to trial. Parties may decide to settle a lawsuit at any time, including before and during trial. Settlements can result from formal processes that involve third parties like arbitrators and mediators, or through an agreement between both parties and their lawyers.

5) Trial: If the case is not resolved through pre-trial motions or a settlement, it will proceed to trial. The trial can be held before a judge or jury, depending on the preferences of the parties involved. Each side argues their case and presents evidence in court. The judge or jury then issues a decision, known as a judgment. If the plaintiff wins the case, the judge or jury will decide the amount of damages to award.

6) Appeal: After the judgment is issued, either party can choose to file an appeal with a higher court. If the judge or jury does not decide in your favor, bringing an appeal provides an opportunity to get the decision reversed. The way an appeal works is different from the lawsuit process.

How Long Does a Lawsuit Take?

The timeline of a lawsuit varies depending on the case. Complex employment law matters can take longer to resolve, as can lawsuits that involve multiple parties. If the opposing side tries to use stalling tactics, it may impact the timeframe of the case.

Erlich Law Firm understands how important it is for clients to obtain a timely outcome so that they can get on with their lives. When we take on an employment case, we aim to make sure the legal process does not drag on longer than necessary.

Our Oakland employment law attorneys work as efficiently as possible within the confines of the court system. You will receive updates throughout the legal process about developments that may affect the timeline of your case.

Things to Consider Before Filing a Lawsuit

While lawsuits allow you to hold an employer accountable for their labor violations or other workplace misconduct, they are not the only way to resolve disputes between employees and employers. Taking legal action can help you obtain compensation, but the downside of lawsuits is that they can be:

• Costly
• Time-consuming
• Stressful
• Complicated

Erlich Law Firm can help you determine whether taking legal action makes sense in your situation, along with providing guidance so that you can make an informed decision. The lawsuit process requires in-depth knowledge of California and federal employment laws. Filing a lawsuit also involves meeting key deadlines. Otherwise, you could lose your right to file a claim for compensation.

As a result, hiring an experienced employment lawyer to handle your case is one of the most important decisions you can make. A skilled attorney will know what employment laws apply to your lawsuit and gather all the necessary evidence, along with ensuring paperwork is filed in a timely manner.

Call for Free Case Evaluation

Erlich Law Firm is committed to guiding employees through every step of the lawsuit process, no matter the type of employment law case. Whether it is wrongful termination, discrimination, sexual harassment or wage theft, we fight for the rights of workers. Our Oakland employment law attorneys are skilled at negotiating settlements and also ready to take a case to trial when necessary. We are available to answer all your questions and advise you of your legal options. Contact us today to get started.


My parents were heavily involved in community organizing. Seeing neighbors and friends’ parents struggle in the workplace gave me a sense of purpose that I wanted to help others. Many employees feel helpless and powerless in the workplace, and helping them vindicate their rights is the right thing to do.

- Jason Erlich

Client testimonials

Jason took the time to explain and guide me through the challenging process, and went the extra steps in consistently providing guidance and putting my concerns and questions high on their list.

Jeff V., Oakland

Jason Erlich made me feel like I was in the right place right away.I had some serious problems with a previous employer and he took care of everything. From the start he helped with my concerns and fears going up against a big corporation.

Susan W., Pacifica

With Jason’s expertise, commitment and aggressiveness, the case is now over and it’s only been 6 months!! I would HIGHLY recommend Jason Erlich to anyone that needs an employment lawyer.

Carla, Petaluma

I can highly recommend Jason Erlich Esq. for any employment law matter. He is an outstanding lawyer, embodies a mix of honesty, knowledge, client care and tough mindset.

Roger J., Oakland

When employees' legal rights are violated, we take time to explain their legal options, listen to their goals, and aggressively argue their case until we achieve the resolution they deserve.