It’s important to prepare for your first appointment with an unpaid wages lawyer. Wage and hour cases involve a detailed legal and factual analysis. In order to evaluate your claim and provide accurate legal advice, the lawyer must have a lot of information. You can help streamline the interview process by compiling this data in advance.
While every lawyer has his or her own interview process, this is a list of common questions. Additionally, different states and cities have different wage and hour laws. Depending on where you live and the issues involved in your case, these questions may vary.
What Kind of Work Do You Do?
Federal and state wage and hour laws establish different legal standards for different types of employees. For example, most tipped employees have a different minimum wage structure than other workers. And, certain professional, administrative, and executive employees are considered exempt from federal overtime rules. In order to evaluate your claim, the lawyer must understand which rules apply to you.
Where Do You Work?
While there are federal wage and hour laws, some cities and states have stricter requirements. For example, New York law requires a higher minimum wage rate than the minimum set under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). (Workers within New York City and the surrounding counties are entitled to an even higher minimum wage.) Once the lawyer understands which rules apply in your case, he or she can calculate your unpaid wages.
What Type of Wage Dispute Do You Have with Your Employer?
There are many types of unpaid wage disputes, including:
- Minimum wage violations,
- Unpaid overtime,
- Wage and tip theft,
- Illegal payroll deductions, and
- Unpaid commissions and bonuses.
The unpaid wages lawyer needs to understand the exact issue in your case. Be prepared to discuss the circumstances involved in your claim. If you have evidence supporting your case, bring it with you.
How Long Have You Had Unpaid Wages?
There are strict filing deadlines in most wage and hour claims. If you wait too long, you may lose your right to damages and compensation. If possible, bring in evidence of when you earned your unpaid wages.
Do You Have an Employment Contract?
If you have an employment contract or collective bargaining agreement, it typically will define your compensation and benefits. If your employer does not follow the contract, it may be liable for damages. Additionally, some employment contracts and collective bargaining agreements require binding arbitration. Arbitration is a private dispute resolution process. If your contract includes an arbitration clause, you may be unable to file a lawsuit against your employer. Your unpaid wages lawyer must understand your rights and obligations under your employment contract. Make sure you bring a copy of the most up-to-date contract with you to the appointment.
Did You File a Complaint with a Wage and Hour Agency?
Both the Federal Wage and Hour Division (WHD) and state agencies investigate and enforce wage laws. If you have filed a complaint with either the WHD or your state’s wage and hour agency, the lawyer will need information about its investigation and findings. His or her strategy and advice may differ, depending on where you are in the complaint and investigation process.
How Much Does Your Employer Owe You in Unpaid Wages?
Your wage and hour lawyer will need to understand how you were financially impacted. In an unpaid wages claim, you may be entitled to compensatory damages, interest, and other damages. Compensatory damages would include reimbursement of your unpaid wages. You also may be entitled to punitive or liquidated damages. To help your lawyer calculate your damages, bring check stubs and other evidence of your unpaid wages.
What Should I Bring to a Meeting with an Unpaid Wages Lawyer?
It is important to bring any evidence you have to your first appointment. This may include:
- Your employment contract (if you have one),
- Employee handbook,
- Correspondence between you and your employer,
- Check stubs and W-2 forms, and
- Documentation of your hours, tips, commissions, or other wage-related information.
This information will help the lawyer evaluate and understand your unpaid wages claim.
Where Can You Find the Right Lawyer?
Hiring a lawyer is an important decision. For many workers, unpaid wage claims are too complicated to handle alone. An employment lawyer can help you understand your rights, file a timely wage and hour claim (if necessary), and file a lawsuit against your employer.