The cost of employment lawyers in California can vary considerably depending on a variety of factors related to the lawyer’s skills and the details of your individual case. Generally, attorneys charge their clients according to one of three types of fee schedules: Hourly Rates, Flat Fees, Contingent Fees.
- Hourly Rates: Most attorneys charge for employment cases according to a set hourly rate. In California, the median attorney hourly rate starts at $350 for smaller less experienced firms and $450 for larger more experienced firms.
- Contingency Fees: Under contingency fee plans, attorneys charge their clients only out of the proceeds of the court action if it is successful. Generally, attorneys will receive a prearranged percentage of the final settlement or court award (around 30% is common in California).
- Flat Fees: Sometimes attorneys will charge a flat fee for less complicated legal issues such as simple wills, an uncontested divorce, power of attorney, or even some minor criminal cases. However, the fee may still be adjusted if unexpected complications arise requiring more work for the attorney than originally anticipated.
There are several factors that can affect the price that an attorney may charge including:
- Attorney’s skill
- Attorney’s experience
- Time spent on the case
- Complexity of the legal issues
- Special training or certifications by the attorney
- Location where legal services are being provided
- Size and prestige of the law firm
In addition to attorney’s fees, clients are also generally responsible for the costs of litigation such as filing fees, court fees, and other incidental costs required to litigate the case.
Employment lawsuits can often take a long time to litigate. The average employment case in California takes over a year to litigate with higher value cases often taking more than 2 years. In addition, if the initial ruling is appealed, the process can take another year or more to resolve. Every case is different and there are a number of factors that can change how long a trial takes, including: the court schedule, the amount of discovery (research) required, and the personalities of the parties. However, cases can also settle at any time if parties can come to terms. Listed below are the most common types of wrongful termination suits and the initial steps required.
- Workplace Discrimination: It is against both federal law and California law for an employer to discriminate because of race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, sex, gender, etc. If you have been the victim of workplace discrimination, the first step is to file a pre-complaint inquiry with either the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Generally, a formal complaint must be filed within 1 year of the occurrence of discrimination. Within 60 days and investigator will be assigned to your case and will contact you to review all relevant facts. If the agency decides to investigate your charge they will interview witnesses, gather evidence, and then issue a decision on whether discrimination occurred. Generally, these investigations take approximately 6 months. If the investigation finds that discrimination occurred, the agency will attempt to first reach a settlement with the employer. If unsuccessful, the agency will either choose to litigate the case themselves or issue you a “Right to Sue” notice, which allows the claim to be brought in court.
- Retaliation: If you have been retaliated against in the workplace for committing a protected act, the first step is to file a complaint with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) within 6 months of the retaliatory act. The DLSE will assign an investigator to your case who will interview all relevant witnesses and review the evidence of the case. If there is no settlement before the investigation is complete, the Labor Commissioner will review a summary of the relevant facts and issue a Determination. If the employer is found to have committed retaliation, they will have 30 days to comply with the Determination or an attorney for the Labor Commissioner will file a court action to enforce the Determination.
- Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA): The Americans With Disabilities Act not only prevents employers from discriminating against employees with disabilities, but also requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to enable employees with disabilities to do their job. If your employer has violated the ADA, you must file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice or the California Department of General Services within 180 days of the violation. After the complaint is received, there are several actions that may be taken including: referring the claim to the ADA Mediation Program; transferring the claim to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for investigation; or the U.S. Department of Justice may choose to litigate the case on the victim’s behalf. The timeframe for ADA claims varies dramatically depending on what actions the Department of Justice choose to take.
The right lawyer is not easy to find; especially once that can handle your type of claim. As most employment lawyers focus on one aspect of employment law, to better serve their clients and to hone their skills. By submitting your case through LegalMatch’s lawyer-client matching service, you can see if you find the right California employment lawyer from your home.