In order to best prepare for a legal case concerning employment law, you should first understand what employment law is and how it relates to your specific claim. Employment law is a broad term which covers the legal aspects related to employment, employers, independent contractors, and employees.
Employment law creates specific guidelines to govern many different subjects, from selecting and interviewing employees to work disputes and termination of employment. Both employers and employees must follow these guidelines.
Generally speaking, employment law cases involve some sort of legal dispute between an employer and an employee, that resulted in one party being damaged. The majority of state laws consider employees to be at will. What this means is that the employer can terminate an employee from a position for any reason, at any time, so long as the reason is not an illegal reason.
Importantly, a legal reason for termination includes having no reason at all. Many employment law cases involve employee status designations, wrongful termination, and employment contracts.
State employment laws regulate employment contracts, as well as the clauses contained within such contracts. An employment contract is an agreement between an employee and employer which outlines the basic responsibilities of the employee. Once the employee has signed the contract, it is considered to be legally binding. It is common for an employment contract to designate an employee as at-will employee.
Employment discrimination is discrimination in the workplace. This discrimination is based on belonging to a protected class, such as:
- National origin;
- Physical disability; and
Employment discrimination laws rule that employes cannot discriminate against an employee or potential employee on the basis of their belonging to a protected class.
What Documentation and Questions Should I Compile Before I Meet with My Employment Attorney?
A legal consultation is a chance for you to ask questions and determine whether you would like to move forward with that attorney. For the attorney, they will determine if they are able to competently represent you, and if they can legally represent you, given the facts of your case. What is discussed during a legal consultation will largely depend on the specifics of each case, and what area of law is involved.
For employment law matters, the attorney will want to analyze the employment contract between the two parties. Often, this will be done prior to the initial consultation. However, there are some general aspects that apply to every consultation.
Most initial consultations are free of charge. However, you should verify this with the attorney prior to the meeting. Regardless of if you are paying for this consultation, you should try to get the most out of it by being prepared and asking relevant questions. One of the best ways to prepare for a consultation is to compile documentation related to your case. It is important to bring every document you have for the attorney to review, as the attorney themselves will be able to properly determine which documents are relevant and which are not.
In initial consultations involving employment law, you will definitely need to provide a copy of any employment contracts you may have. The various types of employment contracts that an employee may be required to sign include:
- Confidentiality agreements;
- Non-compete agreements;
- Arbitration agreements; and
- Termination agreements.
Employment discrimination documentation can include:
- Written evidence of discrimination, such as emails or other communications, company policies or handbooks, job offers and employment contracts, etc;
- Verbal communications, such as statements made in an interview or during an evaluation; and
- Documents, such as pay stubs or human resources records that might support the damages claim.
Some other examples of general documents that you should bring to a legal consultation can include:
- Police or accident reports;
- Property deeds;
- Employment records; and
- Other documents which provide evidence of damages incurred.
One of the most important questions you should ask during the consultation involves the attorney’s fee structure. You will need to be prepared for how the attorney has arranged their fees. Fee arrangements are typically either a contingency fee, a flat fee, or an hourly fee.
Additionally, a legal consultation will always include a discussion of the legal facts and your legal claims. It is important to be honest during the initial consultation regarding the facts of your case, as lying about the facts or circumstances of your case can lead to harsh legal penalties.
Another reason to be completely honest during a legal consultation is that consultations are confidential. Although an initial consultation does not form an attorney-client relationship. A formal relationship will be formed with a representation agreement or evidence of a verbal agreement, everything communicated with an attorney during the consultation will remain privileged and confidential, just as if an attorney-client privilege had formed.
Finally, you should ask the attorney questions about their practice and experience. This could include:
- Their education history;
- Their past experience with cases related to yours;
- The outcome of similar cases they have handled;
- Who else they work with, as other staff could be handling and billing on your case in addition to the attorney; and
- Any other specific questions you may have pertaining to your employment law case.
What Makes an Employment Law Case Strong? What Makes it Weak?
Similar to almost every other legal case, in order to have a strong employment law case you will need legal facts that align with the law, and evidence to support your legal claims. For example, you cannot sue an employer for a breach of an employment contract when you never executed an employment contract as an at-will employee. Therefore, it is important to maintain any evidence that may support your employment law claims.
The timeliness of your legal claims may also impact your case. For example, if you bring a legal claim against your employer for a wrongful action that occurred a year ago, that claim will not be as strong as a claim against your employer for a wrongful action that occurred a month ago.
This will be because the testimony that may be obtained in legal depositions and through legal discovery will not be as fresh a year later as a week or a month later. People forget things as life goes on. Additionally, if you bring your claim too late, you might be barred from recovery altogether, due to your state’s statute of limitations.
When Do I Absolutely Need an Employment Law Attorney?
Employees and independent contractors have various rights that must be protected. If you are facing any issues related to employment law, such as an employee contract dispute, you should absolutely consult with an employment law attorney in your area.
A local and experienced employment law attorney will be best suited to helping you understand your state’s specific employment laws, as well as how those laws may affect your case. An attorney can also review the evidence you provide them with, and determine how best to proceed. Most importantly, your attorney will be able to represent you in court, as needed, to protect your legal rights and potentially recover a damages award for you.
If you are experiencing workplace discrimination, it is especially important for you to consult with a local employment law attorney. As discrimination cases involve multiple branches of law, an attorney can better help you understand what you are facing and how to move forward. They can help you file any state agency claims that are necessary prior to filing a lawsuit. Additionally, they can also represent you in court, as needed, in order to protect your legal rights.