A workplace dispute is generally defined as a type of conflict that occurs in a work environment. It may involve other parties found in the workplace, such as co-workers, supervisors, and/or clients. The majority of workplace dispute cases, however, result from an issue between an employer or business and one or more of its employees.

Some common examples of workplace disputes that may lead to a lawsuit include employment discrimination, harassment, disputes over work benefits, wage and hour disputes, and employment contract issues.

The first step you should take when preparing for a workplace dispute case is to read your employee handbook and review company policies that are related to your matter. Oftentimes, these resources can provide vital information and may indicate how to resolve a particular workplace issue.  

After you have gathered as much information as you can through your employment materials, you may want to schedule a meeting with human resources or your supervisor, so you can speak directly to someone at your company about the issue. This is usually the fastest way to handle problems that arise in the workplace.

If meeting with human resources or your supervisor does not resolve the issue, then the next step you should take is to hire a local workplace dispute attorney. Depending on the type of workplace dispute, your attorney may either advise you to file a complaint with a local government agency that handles such legal matters or will let you know if you are able to file a lawsuit immediately.

Regardless of which path you take first, both submitting a complaint to a government agency and filing a lawsuit will require you to gather certain evidence. Thus, you should collect any documents that are related to your workplace issue and could potentially offer strong support for your side of the case. 

In sum, to prepare a strong workplace dispute case you should:

  • Review all employment materials;
  • Schedule a meeting with human resources or a supervisor to discuss the problem; 
  • Hire a workplace dispute attorney if the meeting does not resolve the issue;
  • Collect documents that are related to the issue and may support your argument;
  • File a complaint with a government agency or a lawsuit with the proper court; 
  • Learn about the potential consequences of bringing a workplace dispute case; and
  • Find out whether there are other legal options available that you might be able to pursue instead. 

What Type of Documents and Questions Should I Bring to My Employment Law Attorney? 

An employee who is involved in a workplace dispute should bring a number of documents with them when they meet with their employment law attorney. Some examples of documents that may be necessary to file a workplace dispute case include:

  • Evidence that proves a dispute or violation occurred (e.g., e-mails, text messages, recordings, videos, complaints submitted to human resources, etc.);
  • Financial statements like pay stubs or timesheets if the dispute involves a wage and hour issue; 
  • Employment documents, such as an employment contract, company policies, and/or an employee handbook;
  • Written accounts of what happened during the dispute or how long the issue went on for (e.g., documented incidents of sexual harassment in the workplace); and/or
  • A list of witnesses or other workers who either saw the dispute occur or have experienced the workplace issue themselves.

A worker who has a workplace dispute issue should also prepare a list of questions to ask their employment lawyer. This list may include questions about the workplace dispute case or the attorney themselves. For instance, if the worker is meeting with the attorney to decide whether they want to hire them or not, then they should ask about the attorney’s billing rates and past track record with such cases.

In contrast, if the worker has already hired the attorney and is meeting with them to go over their case, then they should ask questions that pertain to the case itself, such as the chances of winning the case, the types of remedies they can receive if they are successful, and the consequences of losing the case.

What Makes a Strong or Weak Workplace Dispute Case?  

Some factors that can make a workplace dispute case stronger include:

  • Providing strong evidence of the workplace issue in question (e.g., documents, witnesses, etc.);
  • Having an issue that affects a group of workers or happens repeatedly to a single worker;
  • Being able to demonstrate that an employer violated company policy or federal and state employment laws;
  • Hiring a lawyer to present the arguments on behalf of the employee in the workplace dispute case; and 
  • Being able to show that the employee did nothing to validate the employer’s actions and did not break any laws during the workplace dispute.

In contrast, some factors that can make a workplace dispute case weaker include:

  • Having very little to no evidence of the workplace issue in question; 
  • Not hiring a lawyer to argue on the employee’s behalf or to inform them of their legal options and rights; 
  • Not being able to prove that an employer violated state and federal employment laws or a company policy;
  • Having a reason that justifies the employer’s actions (e.g., if the employee did something that would warrant being fired like stealing from the company); and 
  • Not having proper grounds to bring a workplace dispute case.

What Types of Workplace Dispute Cases Benefit the Most from an Attorney’s Help? 

The types of workplace dispute cases that can benefit the most from an attorney’s help are those cases that have already been investigated by a government agency and were not resolved in accordance with a worker’s satisfaction. 

Some common examples of workplace dispute cases which often give rise to lawsuits and usually require the help of a workplace dispute attorney include:

  • Lawsuits involving wages and overtime payment issues. One example of this type of case is when an employer refuses or fails to pay a nonexempt employee for work performed beyond their standard 40-hour work week. 
  • Cases where an employee’s right to privacy has been violated. 
  • Lawsuits based on a claim for employment discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation. 
  • Disputes over employment contract issues, such as breach of contract or mutual misunderstanding. 
  • Cases for wrongful or unlawful termination of an employee. 
  • Lawsuits regarding violations of numerous federal employment laws (e.g., the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, etc.).
  • Class action lawsuits involving a claim for discrimination or harassment.
  • Various other workplace issues concerning hiring, firing, promoting, and/or retaining employees. 

When Do I Need a Workplace Dispute Attorney? 

Workplace dispute lawsuits often involve more than one legal issue and thus usually require extensive knowledge of various state and federal employment laws. Therefore, if you have questions about a workplace dispute or would like to file a lawsuit against your employer, then you may need to hire a local workplace lawyer to take on your case. 

You should also hire a workplace dispute attorney if your employer is a large corporation and has adequate in-house resources to defend themselves in court. 

For instance, if you work for a successful company and you get injured on the job, your employer will most likely be insured by a good insurance company. In such a case, it will be extremely difficult to defend yourself against your employer’s insurance company without the assistance of an experienced attorney. 

Another scenario wherein you may need to hire your own workplace dispute attorney, is if you are a union member and are unhappy with the way that a union representative (or their counsel) is handling your case. A workplace attorney will not only be able to help with the issue at hand, but can also assist you in filing a complaint against your union organization with the local or a federal labor board. 

Finally, you may need a workplace dispute attorney if your issue can be brought as a class action lawsuit. For example, if the workplace dispute affects a particular group of workers, then your attorney can help you initiate a class action lawsuit, assist with the class certification process, and provide representation if you are the named member of the class. 

In general, you cannot represent yourself in a class action lawsuit. Thus, you will need to hire a workplace dispute lawyer to bring a class action.