If you’ve encountered disability discrimination in your job, you’ve likely suffered significant harm. You may have lost earnings; you may have lost your job entirely. You’ve suffered enough; you don’t need to suffer the loss of your discrimination lawsuit before it even gets off the ground because you didn’t have the tools you needed for success. Before you start, make sure have all the resources you need, including an experienced New Jersey disability discrimination lawyer.
The reasons that the right legal representation is so important are many. On TV shows, during the pretrial process, you see attorneys digging through stacks of documents or interviewing potential witnesses. You don’t see all that goes into, say, making a proper demand for the production of documents or correctly noticing a deposition.
Many procedural details potentially can trip up your case. Take, for example, Y.R., an office manager at a dermatology practice. The manager allegedly had peptic ulcers. The employer allegedly failed to accommodate the manager’s disabilities that stemmed from those ulcers. Eventually, in early 2018, the employer fired the manager after nearly 15 years on the job, so Y.R. sued for disability discrimination.
Unfortunately for the manager, her lawsuit had many procedural imperfections. Those flaws caused major problems in her specific circumstance because the employer chose simply to ignore the manager’s lawsuit.
If you have a skilled legal team that has dotted all the I’s and crossed all the required T’s, then the defense ignores your lawsuit at their peril. You have, after the passage of a period of time, the opportunity to pursue what’s called a “default judgment,” in which you can get a judgment in your favor and an award of damages without ever having to present your case at trial.
The Importance of Proper Service of Process
Before you can do that, though, you have to demonstrate several things to the court. One of these is that you have properly provided notice of your action to the defendants, and have done so within the time limitation the rules prescribe. This is called “service of process,” and is something that can definitely trap the unwary and the uninitiated.
Y.R. first mailed a copy of her complaint to the employer’s chief legal officer. That mailing did not include a summons. That last part was critical, as the summons is required in order for service of process to be proper. The mailing was ignored, thereby making service unsuccessful.
She tried a second time, attempting to serve the employer’s interim chief legal officer. Again, there were problems with Y.R.’s service attempt. Generally, a company’s CFO holds sufficient authority such that you can validly serve notice by personally serving that officer. However, the person Y.R. personally served was an interim CFO. While serving a CFO probably is proper service, serving an interim CFO may or may not be, depending upon the role he held and duties he performed, and the length of time that he had been doing so. All of these factual issues were things that Y.R. was required to demonstrate to the court with proper supporting facts, and she had not done so.
Getting service of process correct right away is crucial. In addition to costing you valuable time, errors in this step can make an otherwise timely action vulnerable to dismissal for being too late.
The Danger of a Dismissal for ‘Failure to State a Claim’
Another way that the right legal advocate can help is by ensuring that the complaint you file meets all of the law’s requirements for stating a valid claim. Y.R. asserted that her employer engaged in disparate treatment, failure to accommodate, and retaliation.
Generally, for each cause of action you state in your complaint, you have to state “the specific elements [of your] alleged causes of action” and then explain how the facts you alleged in your complaint support a ruling that you’ve satisfied each of the elements. If, as Y.R. did, you’ve alleged claims under multiple statutes (Y.R. made claims under both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination,) then you have to do that for each of the statutes, as each may have different elements and/or standards.
The law doesn’t require you to lay out everything in your complaint, but the law does demand that you give the court “enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element[s]” of your claims.
A skilled discrimination attorney will know each of these requirements inside and out as a result of their years of experience going through the process. The benefits of this are priceless, as procedural errors can lead to catastrophic results such as a dismissal for failure to state a claim or dismissal due to being time-barred. To avoid these scenarios, get the knowledgeable legal help you need from the skilled New Jersey disability discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates. Our knowledgeable attorneys have spent many years working hard for New Jersey workers hurt by discrimination and we’re ready to go to work for you. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation.