Also known as an employment lawyer, a workplace attorney represents anyone dealing with legal disputes, violations, or claims related to employment laws.
Specializing in workplace laws, employment lawyers are an important factor in shaping the treatment of workers and fairness in employment policy. Additionally, workplace lawyers help resolve disputes between employees and employers or disputes between co-workers.
Employment attorneys help protect workers’ rights and protect employers from frivolous lawsuits. States vary in their employment laws and how those laws apply in the regulation of employment practices.
For this reason, amongst others, consulting a workplace attorney can be quite beneficial in protecting your rights and interests, as well as your future in the workforce.
What Types of Claims Do Workplace Attorneys Handle?
More claims that workplace attorneys commonly handle include:
- Discrimination claims;
- Wage disputes
- Wrongful termination claims;
- Disputes over benefits;
- Employment contracts; and
- Harassment and hostile work environment claims.
If questions arise regarding any type of claim related to employment, a skilled workplace attorney will be able to assist.
How Can Employment Lawyers Help Employers?
Employers often handle routine matters without legal representation. However, employers should consider consulting an employment lawyer in the following circumstances:
- Firing an employee: Personnel decisions occasionally carry the potential for a lawsuit. If employers suspect that the person they wish to fire for misconduct or poor performance may file a complaint against them, employment lawyers can help minimize the risk of a lawsuit. Employers often consult employment attorneys when an employment contract covers an employee or is soon vested in a stock or retirement plan.
- Sometimes, an employer’s employee wishes to terminate a member of a protected class, such as a pregnant woman, a person with a disability, or a racial or religious minority. These situations often warrant the assistance of an employment lawyer. If an employee believes they are being fired in retaliation for whistleblowing, or if an employee has complained about harassment or discrimination, attorneys will commonly get involved. Employers also use employment lawyers to look at severance packages for high-level employees.
- Major employment decisions: Suppose an employer is about to make a decision that will affect large numbers of people, such as mass layoffs or changes to a retirement plan. In that case, employment attorneys may be used to avoid legal problems resulting from that decision.
- Employee classifications: To avoid fines, back pay, overtime pay, and legal punishments, employers use employment lawyers to classify positions correctly. Lawyers help employers identify which positions are exempt as opposed to non-exempt. Employment lawyers also identify work relationships of independent contractors versus employees.
- Employment lawyers often write employee handbooks, policies, and procedures in order to make sure all employment laws are met. Lawyers also ensure that requirements for wages, overtime, family medical leave, and benefits are met.
- Lawsuits and other complaints: If an employee has filed a harassment or discrimination complaint against an employer with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or another state agency, an employment lawyer will handle the claims. Lawsuits by employees and appeals for denial of unemployment or worker’s compensation benefits are also handled by employment lawyers.
How Do Employment Lawyers Help Employees?
Employment lawyers work to protect workers’ rights by making sure different federal and state laws and regulations are being followed by employers. Employers who are acting illegally can be sued under the following laws:
- The Fair Labor Standards Act: The FLSA covers wages and overtime pay.
- The Occupational Safety and Health Act: OSHA provides the standards for a safe workplace environment.
- The Employee Retirement Income Security Act: The ERISA protects employee pensions and other employee benefits.
- The Family Medical Leave Act: The FMLA ensures 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year for workers in the case of family health issues.
- The EEOC works to prohibit discrimination based on age, sex, disability, race, or religion.
Employees should consult a workplace attorney if an employer acts unfairly or illegally. The chances of success are extremely small if you represent yourself. Employment lawyers specialize in these specific types of lawsuits and complaints, and it’s wise to consult an attorney for advice on the best way to resolve your case.
When Should I Hire an Attorney?
The following examples are situations where hiring an employment attorney is a good idea:
- You believe you were not offered a job or were fired from your job due to illegal discrimination.
- You are or have previously been sexually harassed on the job.
- You need help negotiating an employee severance package.
- You filed a complaint with OSHA or the EEOC, and the agency didn’t respond or investigate your complaint thoroughly.
- Your employer is not paying you the correct amount for your work.
- You were fired after filing a complaint or exposing illegal activities in the workplace.
- You are being forced to do something illegal at work.
- You lost your job after using sick days or taking time off to care for a child or spouse.
- You want to file a lawsuit in a state or federal court against your employer.
Tips for Hiring a Workplace Attorney
It is important to be well-matched with a workplace attorney in your area. If possible, do a little research to find out what types of legal issues you are dealing with, and make a note of any questions you may have.
Employment law can be complicated, and your lawyer can help you better understand what your case involves. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) must handle some claims involving employment prior to filing a lawsuit.
An experienced lawyer will be able to walk you through the process and help build your case for a potential lawsuit. Statutes of limitations exist on employment claims, so be sure to confirm date deadlines with your lawyer.
A workplace attorney will also be able to advise you as to your next steps. For instance, if you are still employed, it may be difficult to decide how to proceed with your job. Your attorney will provide guidance and reassurance throughout the process.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Workplace Disputes?
Issues involving your place of employment can be stressful and difficult to handle, but the first step in workplace disputes is to contact your Human Resources (HR) Department. If HR cannot resolve the issue or refuses to, then your next step will be to file a claim with the EEOC.
But if the EEOC cannot help your situation, you should speak with a local workplace lawyer. Be sure to have your Notice of Right to Sue and all relevant documentation. It’s important to take these first steps so your lawyer will be able to help you right away. Once you take the first steps, your lawyer will see you through to the end.
Use LegalMatch’s services to find an excellent workplace attorney in your area. LegalMatch’s services can help you narrow down your search for a lawyer in your city or state by selecting the issues involved in your particular case. There is no fee to present your case, and LegalMatch’s services are always 100% confidential.