Pursuing a Wage Dispute Claim

Pursuing a Claim

Pursuing a claim for unpaid wages can take time and patience but it is a worthwhile pursuit. The information below will outline terms, but understand that these generalizations should not be taken as legal advice. Every case is different, which is why it is important to consult a professional attorney to evaluate your specific case.

Time Frame

When pursuing a claim against your employer for unpaid wages, there are specific deadlines which must be met. If you fail to meet these deadlines, there is a possibility that you may not be allowed to follow through with your claim again, so it is important to make yourself knowledgeable of what is required of you and to follow through. An attorney can be very helpful when pursuing a claim, because they will be able to help you meet these deadlines and explain the process to you.

The Complaint or Petition

When you file a Complaint or a Petition, it begins the lawsuit process. Whoever files the complaint is considered the plaintiff. The document which itemizes your legal claims is known as the Complaint or Petition. This document is served on the defendant after the claim has been filed. When the defendant receives the document, they have a deadline to file an “Answer with the Court.” The amount of time they have to file is dependent on where the case is filed, with either the Federal or State Court. The defendant will agree with the legal items raised or deny them in their Answer to the court.

Scheduling of your Litigation

Once the Answer from the defendant is filed, the parties typically meet and outline a schedule of deadlines within the litigation of the case. The specifics will depend on whether the case is filed with the State or Federal Court. Then, the Court issues a Scheduling Order, and this outlines the deadlines and dates of the litigation. As previously mentioned, it is important that these deadlines are met. In general, cases are set for trial a year after the Complaint or Petition is filed. Every case will vary.

The Discovery Process

The Discovery Process is the opportunity to seek out information, put questions in writing, take depositions, and retrieve pertinent documents. This occurs after the filing of the lawsuit and after the defendant has filed their Answer. In a Federal Court, there are Initial Disclosures. An initial disclosure is a requirement that the parties must make information available to each other without first receiving a request, this includes names, addresses, phone numbers, and contact information of persons who are likely to have information relevant to the case, among other items. This includes electronically stored information.

All parties can submit written requests for tangible or electronic items that pertain to the matter of the lawsuit, this is known as request for production of documents.

Each party can submit written questions to the other party, known as interrogatories. The receiving party of an interrogatory will need to provide a written answer, which is under oath. It is best to review these questions under the guidance of an attorney to determine how to best respond.

Either party may take depositions, which is when a person is summoned to court to answer questions by an attorney. Whatever testimony given at depositions is all under oath. The deposition is led by an attorney and is usually done outside of court.

Summary Judgement

When discovery is finished, defendants can file a Motion for Summary Judgement. In a summary judgement ruling, the Court decides whether or not the case will proceed to jury trial. Usually, the facts of the case are established during the discovery process. If the motion for summary judgement is granted, a jury trial is not awarded. It is possible to appeal this decision. If the defendant’s motion for summary judgement is denied, then the plaintiff gets a jury trial.

Your Trial

Past the summary judgement stage, trial commences. Trial lasts about one week, with the first day spent picking the jury. At the trial, a trial judge will decide which information can be used as evidence during the trial.


If your trial is successful, and the jury votes in your favor, the defendant will almost always appeal. The appeal happens only after the defendant has filed several motions with the trial judge. Appeals require writing legal briefs to appellate judges. Who your appellate judge is has an impact on how the appeal will turn out. Appellate courts can reverse the jury finding or reduce the damages awarded to the plaintiff. Appeal can add more than a year to the final resolution of your case, and sometimes it can take three years for the entire process to reach a final resolution.


Instead of going to trial, parties can try to reach a settlement beforehand. The parties can attempt to resolve the matter before protracted litigation occurs. In some Federal Courts, mediation is required and is led by a neutral third party. The mediator will listen to both sides, and then the individual parties will each go to separate rooms. The mediator meets with each side and discusses the other side’s case.

In many cases, the mediator will get an offer of settlement from the plaintiff, and often the defendant returns with a counteroffer. It can go back and forth like this several times before an agreement is reached.

The client will make the final decision on whether or not to agree to a settlement. An attorney will be present to give advice and guidance throughout the mediation. What is discussed at mediation is confidential and may not be used as evidence during the trial, if it reaches that point. Unsuccessful mediation are not penalized, and they can occur at any time during litigation.

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