In the recently decided case, Dominick v. Mayorkas, 52 F.4th 992 (5th Cir. 2022), Gail Dominick
sued her former employer, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for race discrimination and wrongful termination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. She even hired an attorney to help her. Once the lawsuit was filed, the Court set deadlines to complete discovery, which includes getting documents and deposing witnesses. The Court also set a deadline for the employer to file a motion for summary judgment. This blog is about having the wrong lawyer can cost you your employment discrimination and wrongful firing case. (Best Law Read: Hiring The Wrong Attorney Can Seriously F’Up Your Employment Case).
What is a motion for summary judgment?
A motion for summary judgment is a procedural mechanism filed by one party to a lawsuit that requests the court to decide some or all issues as a matter of law. Typically, a motion for summary judgment will be filed by a defendant seeking an order from the court that the plaintiff’s case has not merit and cannot proceed as a matter of law. A court ruling on a motion for summary judgment cannot weigh factual issues but rather must resolve any questions of fact in favor of the nonmovant. Having done so, if the court determines that the plaintiff cannot meet the burden of proof to support any key element of a raised claim, the court can summarily dismiss that claim without proceeding to a jury.
What if I need more discovery before responding to a motion for summary judgment?
Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and specifically Rule 56(d), parties can seek an extension of time to respond to a motion for summary judgment in order to conduct additional discovery. In order to get the extension, the party seeking it must explain why the extension is needed and what additional discovery is expected to be obtained. Courts have broad discretion as to whether to grant or deny a motion under Rule 56(d). Parties should not rely on a court, especially federal courts, to save them for a failure to conduct timely discovery by granting an extension of time to respond to a motion for summary judgment.
That was the issue in Dominick. On May 6, 2021, the court issued an order allowing Dominick until July 6, 2021, to conduct discovery and respond to the employer’s motion for summary judgment, which had been filed with their answer. But Dominick’s lawyer waited until Friday July 2, 2021, to even reach out to the employer’s lawyer to schedule depositions. Having done so, and given the holiday weekend, there was no time to actually schedule depositions within the court allowed time. After FEMA’s lawyer did not respond to the deposition request by July 6, 2021, Dominick’s attorney filed a motion for additional time pursuant to Rule 56(d). This eleventh hour motion was not received well by the district court, which denied the motion because Dominick failed to explain how any additional facts might influence the outcome of the summary judgment motion, as required to merit further time; and offered no reason for waiting to reach out to the employer’s lawyer to set up depositions and other discovery.
On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit quickly rejected Dominick’s argument:
In this case, the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that Dominick failed to diligently pursue further discovery during the two-month continuance the district court provided. She admits that she took no action to engage in discovery between May 6—the date the district court granted the continuance—and July 2—just four days before her opposition to the motion for summary judgment came due. Dominick declined to explain the 57-day delay in her Rule 56(d) declaration accompanying the opposition. A “party suspends discovery at [her] own risk,” and Dominick’s arguments to excuse this fault are not availing.
Id. (footnotes omitted).
The lesson to be learned here is that it is critical for wrongfully fired employees to hire qualified employees’ rights lawyers who have both the skills and the resources to handle their cases. Litigation is a tricky process filled with many landmines. Hiring the best lawyers at a firm with the most resources gives you the best chance of prevailing.
What is the best way to find an employee’s rights lawyer to sue my employer for discrimination and wrongful termination?
Best Employment Lawyer Answer: When looking for an attorney to help you with your wrongful firing or discrimination claim based on race, national origin, gender, age, religion or disability, look for law firms that focus exclusively on employees’ rights, have experience actually trying those cases to juries, and have the resources to go toe to toe with any law firm that your employer might hire. The best way to get all of that is to call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation. (Read: What is the Spitz No Fee Guarantee?; Why Having Skilled Employment Attorneys Is Critical; Employment Law: Avoid Hiring The Wrong Attorney). Call our lawyers in Ohio, Michigan, and North Carolina to get help now. Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm and its experienced attorneys are dedicated to protecting employees’ rights and solving employment disputes.
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