Right to Sue

by Madison Fiedler-Carlson

“I filed my civil rights complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission (“ICRC”) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), my claim is being investigated, and more than 60 days has elapsed.  I have the option of requesting my Right-to-Sue letter now.  Should I wait to hire an attorney until after I receive my Right-to-Sue letter?”

The short answer is no.

First, your civil rights complaint is important.  Your attorney can only file a lawsuit for civil rights claims that the ICRC or the EEOC have investigated, and they will only investigate claims or incidents that (1) have happened in the last 300 days and (2) you have mentioned in your civil rights complaint.  A good employment lawyer can help you draft or amend your civil rights complaint to make sure all the important facts are mentioned.  By the time you request your Right-to-Sue letter, it will be too late to amend your civil rights complaint and you might have missed your opportunity to bring legitimate claims to court.

After your Right-to-Sue letter has been issued, you only have 90 days in which to file a lawsuit in court.  That time period is called the “statute of limitations.”  While 90 days may seem like a long time, it’s hardly any time at all in the legal world and puts a lot of unnecessary pressure on your attorney.  Before you hire an attorney, she must schedule a time to meet with you (which may not be the same week you call), make a decision about representing you, contact and speak to witnesses, and understand your timeline and your case.  Your attorney has ethical obligations to investigate your claims and make sure they have merit.  After she confirms this, she must still draft your lawsuit, send you a copy to make changes, make your corrections, and then file it.

Most lawyers have other clients and deadlines to juggle besides yours, so 90 days is cutting it close for any employment law attorney.  It is usually not enough time to take all the necessary steps to represent you properly and file your lawsuit.

It also puts unnecessary pressure on you to find a lawyer in those 90 days.  If you don’t start looking for an employment lawyer until you get your Right-to-Sue letter, you only have 90 days to search for the right lawyer and the right fit.  Assuming a lawyer will be willing to take your case with the statute of limitations clock already ticking (leaving them less time to properly investigate your claims), you may meet with several people before you find the person or the firm who feels right to you.  Setting up appointments, meeting with different attorneys, and finding that fit can take time.  What often happens is that a person with a Right-to-Sue letter feels more and more desperate because the time period to file their claim is getting shorter by the day.  The last thing you want when preparing to file your lawsuit is pressure to choose any attorney you can find in order to file your claim, or to be unable to find an attorney at all and lose your chance to file your claims in court.

Finding the right attorney can take time.  If your case is currently being investigated by the ICRC or the EEOC and you think you might want representation, please contact an experienced employment law attorney right away!

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