Importance of Hiring an Experienced Employment Attorney in Avoiding Summary Judgment

Experienced Employment Lawyers Representing Employees Throughout New York City

Employment law cases are often complicated and time-consuming. During the course of a lawsuit, there may be multiple motions and discovery disputes. No motion is more threatening to a plaintiff who has suffered from discrimination or harassment than a summary judgment motion brought by an employer that has successfully kept them from obtaining the very evidence that they need to win. These motions have very strict procedural rules, which a layperson or an attorney not experienced in employment law can easily mishandle. If a defendant employer wins a summary judgment motion, ….THE CASE IS OVER! This means there will be no trial. The importance of hiring an experienced employment law firm in avoiding summary judgment thus cannot be overstated. The New York City employment attorneys at Phillips & Associates can help you fight off these motions and keep the pressure on your employer.

What is Summary Judgment?

Either party to an employment case may file a motion with the court for summary judgment. Summary judgment is granted when that party shows that there is no genuine dispute about any material fact, and the party moving for summary judgment is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. When summary judgment is granted, the case will be dismissed and will not proceed to trial before a jury. Many self-represented plaintiffs never get to trial because they do not know how to handle a summary judgment motion.

Summary judgment is granted more often in employment law cases than many other kinds of cases. Unfairly, many employers use every trick in their arsenal to keep a worker from getting the evidence that would allow him or her to establish intentional discrimination or harassment. They may be obstreperous during discovery, fail to turn over key documents, or flood a plaintiff with documents that make it difficult to sort through the potential evidence to obtain what is necessary to prevail in the summary judgment motion or at trial. According to one study, summary judgment is granted in employment discrimination cases about 77% of the time.

The Importance of Hiring an Employment Attorney in Avoiding Summary Judgment

One federal judge, drawing upon his 16 years as a trial judge and two years as an appellate judge, has commented on the frequency with which judges grant summary judgment in employment cases.1 Acknowledging that discrimination in the workplace still exists, he noted that employment cases can be especially challenging and require much attention from a judge. In trying to explain why these cases are so often subject to summary judgment, he reasoned that when these cases are pro se (when the plaintiff is self-represented), they are difficult to manage.

In his view, the frequency with which summary judgment motions are granted for employers is not widespread judicial hostility among judges toward these types of cases, although there may be some judges who are biased against employment plaintiffs. Instead, meritorious cases are frequently settled, which can result in apparently lower success rates for plaintiffs in employment cases. He also reasoned that employment cases tend to be personal, which causes them to be litigated aggressively on both sides. In his view, it is difficult for a plaintiff to prove intentional discrimination. All of these difficulties are exacerbated enormously if you do not have an experienced attorney guiding your claim and navigating the judicial system on your behalf.

The judiciary considers summary judgment motions a useful tool for weeding out claims that do not have merit before they go to an expensive trial. However, summary judgment motions can also be used unfairly as a cudgel by parties with more resources in order to prevent a plaintiff who has been harmed from achieving justice. It is critical to retain an experienced attorney to avoid summary judgment and allow your case to go to trial before a jury.

An opposition to an employer's summary judgment motion must be accompanied with sufficient competent proof. The judge will examine evidence of comments, disproportionate treatment, unfairness, and more to determine whether the evidence is relevant, material, and admissible. Most ordinary people do not understand the rules of evidence sufficiently to know whether proof is either material or admissible. While conflicts in the evidence need to be resolved in the plaintiff's failure when the defense is bringing a summary judgment motion, many employees will not even be able to obtain sufficient information to counter the claims made by the employer through discovery. Without competent evidence to counter the claims, there will be no conflict in the evidence to be resolved. The case will resolve at the summary judgment stage.

In contrast, an experienced lawyer opposing a summary judgment motion may be able to present more than a few facts that prove that it is more likely than not that the employer acted in an intentionally discriminatory manner. At the very least, an experienced lawyer who has evaluated the case and decided to take it will have sufficient evidence to create a triable issue of fact that should be enough to defeat the summary judgment motion and allow the case to go to trial.

Get Assistance from a Knowledgeable Litigation Attorney in New York City

Litigators with experience know how to tell a persuasive story to the judge and help the judge and the jury see the plaintiff’s side of the story. This allows a judge who wants to be fair to get the decision right when faced with an employer's summary judgment motion. At Phillips & Associates, our New York City attorneys help plaintiffs who have been harmed by employment discrimination. The importance of hiring an employment attorney in avoiding summary judgment cannot be overstated. You can call Phillips & Associates at (866) 229-9441 or reach us through our online form for a free consultation. We handle employment cases in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, as well as in Westchester, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties and in New Jersey.

1 Hon. Denny Chin, “Summary Judgment in Employment Discrimination Cases: A Judge’s Perspective,” 57 N.Y.L. Sch. L. Rev. 671 (2012-2013).

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