It’s important to prepare for your first appointment with an unpaid wages lawyer. Wage and hour cases require detailed legal and factual evaluations. Lawyers need a lot of information to evaluate your claim and provide accurate legal advice. By gathering this data in advance, you can streamline the interview process.
Each lawyer has their own interview process, but here is a list of common questions. Different states and cities also have different wage and hour laws. These questions may vary depending on where you live and the issues involved with your case.
What Kind of Work Do You Do?
Federal and state wage and hour laws establish different legal standards for different types of employees. The minimum wage structure for most tipped employees differs from that of other workers. Additionally, certain professional, administrative, and executive employees are exempt from federal overtime laws. To evaluate your claim, the lawyer must know which rules apply to you.
Where Do You Work?
Despite federal wage and hour laws, some cities and states have more stringent 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 your lawyer knows which rules apply to your case, they 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.
An unpaid wages lawyer needs to understand the exact issue in your case. Be prepared to discuss the circumstances surrounding your claim. Bring any evidence you have supporting your claim.
How Long Have You Had Unpaid Wages?
Most wage and hour claims have strict filing deadlines. If you wait too long, you may lose your right to compensation and damages. 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. In the event your employer violates the contract, it may be liable for damages. Additionally, some employment contracts and collective bargaining agreements require binding arbitration.
It is a private dispute resolution process. You may not be able to sue your employer if your contract contains an arbitration clause. Your unpaid wages lawyer must know your rights and obligations under your employment contract. Bring a copy of the most recent contract with you to your appointment.
Did You File a Complaint with a Wage and Hour Agency?
Both the federal Wage and Hour Division (WHD) and state agencies are responsible for investigating and enforcing 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. Depending on where you are in the complaint and investigation process, their approach and advice may differ.
How Much Does Your Employer Owe You in Unpaid Wages?
You should explain to your wage and hour lawyer how you were financially impacted. You may be entitled to compensatory damages, interest, and other damages for unpaid wages.
Compensatory damages would include reimbursement of your unpaid wages. You also may be entitled to punitive or liquidated damages. Bring check stubs and other evidence of unpaid wages to your lawyer so that he can calculate your damages.
What Should I Bring to a Meeting with an Unpaid Wages Lawyer?
You should bring any evidence you have to your first appointment. Examples 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.
An attorney will use this information to evaluate and understand your unpaid wages claim.
What Can a Lawyer Do For Me?
An employment lawyer is able to determine whether your employer has violated a federal or state law, as well as present you with options to challenge an employer’s illegal conduct.
Go Over Your Options
When employers violate wage and hour laws, workers can file a lawsuit. However, the employee may have other options as well. Depending on the state, you can file a claim for unpaid wages against your employer with the state labor department, which holds a hearing to determine whether the claim is valid. This is a less costly and quicker alternative to a lawsuit, but there may be disadvantages that a lawyer can assist you with (such as eliminating the option of suing or limiting the damages you can recover).
You can also try to negotiate a wage settlement with your employer informally. You can make an informed choice about what to do by consulting with an employment lawyer.
An employment lawyer can also provide you with an assessment of your chances of success in any of the above options, as well as the costs involved. You and your lawyer will discuss what damages you might be able to recover and what attorney fees you may have to pay.
Most people consider how much they will have to pay a lawyer when considering legal action. Get an estimate of the lawyer’s fees for each option. Find out what fee structures the lawyer offers. What is the lawyer’s fee structure? For example, is it contingent (percentage of recovery)? Will the attorney agree to a limited services retainer? If you discuss all of the fee arrangements available, you can include those costs in your overall analysis of pursuing your unpaid wage claim.
In addition to attorney’s fees, you may also have to pay court costs. Costs may include filing fees, deposition fees, expert witness fees, and so on. You should also ask the lawyer to give you a breakdown of these costs.
How Do I Get The Unpaid Wages?
If you feel comfortable talking with management or HR, start with your employer. Check with management or payroll if there was a mistake. It is not necessary to first contact your employer about unpaid wages before contacting a labor board or an employment attorney.
You can file a claim with the government to collect unpaid wages in several ways. You can file a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor (DOL). These cases are investigated by the DOL. It is possible to recover unpaid wages through the DOL, but the DOL can be hard to contact, it can take a long time to process claims, and it generally pays less than an employment attorney.
Should I Sue?
You will likely only be able to recover your unpaid wages if you sue your employer. Contact an employment lawyer to discuss filing a claim for unpaid wages.
An employment lawyer can help you understand your rights and may be able to get you more money than just unpaid wages. Depending on the state in which you work, you may be entitled to additional unpaid wages, damages, interest, and attorney’s fees.
Where Can You Find the Right Lawyer?
Choosing a lawyer is an important decision. Unpaid wage claims are too complex for many workers to handle on their own. 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.