Figuring out the fair value of an employment discrimination case is difficult. There are many factual and emotional considerations that must be taken into account. There are also complex legal issues in Ohio employment law that must be evaluated. Although valuing an employment case is difficult, there are some guideposts that Cleveland area employees can use as a starting point when figuring out whether or not to settle:
(1) The facts. This is the most important consideration. The stronger the facts of your case, the more economic value it has. Of course, no matter how strong your facts are on moral grounds, if there is no violation of Ohio or federal employment law, they probably do not make your case worth more.
(2) The limits of the law. Ohio and federal employment discrimination laws are very specific about the types of damages that can be recovered. Most claims allow recovery for lost wages and benefits, and provide for attorneys’ fees as well. Some claims allow recovery for emotional distress and punitive damages. Others—like the Family and Medical Leave Act—allow for statutory damages called “liquidated damages,” but not emotional distress or punitive damages. Even when emotional distress and punitive damages can be recovered, often there are statutory “caps” limiting the amount a victim can recover for emotional distress and punitive damages, no matter how egregious the conduct or how debilitating the harm.
(3) Whether you found a new job. If your case is about being fired from a job, then whether you found a new job, and what it pays, is a relevant factor because it affects the amount of your lost wages and benefits.
(4) Your risk tolerance. There are risks inherent in pursuing an employment discrimination claim in Ohio. No matter how strong your case is, if you go to trial, you are putting your fate in the hands of a jury comprised of complete strangers. A jury might decide against you, even in a very strong case. (Of course the same risk exists for your employer).
(5) The emotional X-factor. For most discrimination and harassment victims, a lawsuit is stressful, time-consuming, and can be personally intrusive. You need to consider what your goals are, and whether you are willing to put yourself through this personal toll to achieve them. Unfortunately, this is not a question that an attorney can answer for you—it is something you must decide for yourself.
Because every case is so different, these aren’t the only factors. And some of these factors might be more or less relevant in your particular circumstances. An experienced Cleveland employment discrimination attorney can help you work through the various issues in evaluating your case. Ultimately, however, whether to pursue a claim, and whether to accept a settlement offer, is always up to you as the client.
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