If your car needs a new timing belt, you need a trained and skilled auto mechanic. If you need an appendectomy, you need a trained and experienced surgeon. Similarly, if you’ve suffered discrimination at work, your legal case is not the right time to attempt a DIY project. You need the aid of a skilled legal advocate. Trying to “go it alone” can not only weaken parts of your case, it can lead to the commission of errors that eventually do fatal harm to your case. Your case is too important to put at risk, so make sure you act promptly in obtaining a knowledgeable New Jersey employment discrimination lawyer.
To back up that point, here is a disability discrimination case that makes for a real-life cautionary tale. The worker, G.W., worked at a mental health and drug rehab center until the center terminated his employment in September 2017.
A year later, G.W. sued in federal court. He alleged many claims, including violations of the Law Against Discrimination, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, and the Family Leave Act.
Unfortunately for G.W., he tried to handle the case himself and the lawsuit went nowhere. The defense successfully obtained an order dismissing the case based upon G.W.’s failure to state a valid claim. G.W. didn’t file a motion for reconsideration and he didn’t file an appeal.
Instead, he hired an attorney and pursued an action in state court in Union County. While that normally would have been a good decision, in this case, it was too late. The lawsuit the attorney filed in state court was, regardless of the strength of the evidence offered or the arguments made, hopelessly doomed to fail.
Res Judicata and the Federal Case Doomed the State Case
That’s because of the way that the rules of civil litigation work. The law in New Jersey (and elsewhere) recognizes rules called “res judicata” and the “entire controversy doctrine.” These legal concepts stand for the rule that, if you pursue a case in federal court and lose on the merits, you are not allowed to go back and re-litigate those same issues in state court. (The same is true of attempting to re-litigate a lost state court case by filing on the exact same issues in federal court.)
The New Jersey Supreme Court has, in the past, specifically ruled that a federal lawsuit that is dismissed because the defendant made – and won – a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (which was how the defendants defeated G.W.’s federal case) “is an adjudication on the merits and, therefore, a subsequent state action is barred by principles of res judicata.” These kinds of dismissals, the high court stated in its opinion, constitute a judgment on the merits just as if the case had gone through a complete trial.
And so, because of what happened in federal court, the merits of G.W.’s state court claims never saw the light of day. Is it possible G.W. had an inadequate case? It’s possible. It is also distinctly possible that G.W. had a good case that, placed in the hands of a skillful lawyer from the start, was a potentially winning case. The reality is that, because of G.W.’s pro se action in the federal court, there’s no way to know for sure.
Your workplace discrimination civil case is far too important to leave it exposed to the unnecessary risks posed by proceeding without a knowledgeable attorney. Don’t go it alone. Rely on the experienced disability discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates to be the sort of powerful and effective legal advocate you need to give your case the very best possible chance for the successful outcome you deserve. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation.