Employment lawyers represent both employees and employers in connection with issues involving both state and federal employment law. Employment lawyers make sure that all employees are treated in a fair and consistent manner and that employers are in compliance with all of the many local, state and federal laws that apply in the modern workplace.
Employment lawyers can draft and review employee handbooks, assist with wage law issues and represent employees or employers before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). They also provide guidance on employees’ rights if they allege that their rights have been violated.
Employment lawyers handle employment-related legal issues, including:
- Wrongful termination;
- Workplace discrimination;
- Sexual harassment;
- Contract violations;
- Issues involving employee benefits such as health insurance and retirement savings plans; and
- Whistleblower protection.
Many lawyers represent employees who are not part of a union and are basically powerless in situations where employers have treated them in ways that violate applicable law and put employees at a disadvantage.
When Should I Hire an Employment Lawyer If I am the Employee?
Employers can commit a wide variety of unlawful actions that place employees at a disadvantage or violate their rights. A person should contact an employment attorney in any of the following situations:
- The person has been harassed at work;
- The person has been treated in a discriminatory manner because of a protected characteristic, e.g. pregnancy;
- The employer has retaliated against the person because they exercised a right such as requesting overtime pay to which they are entitled by law;.
- The person’s employment has been terminated in violation of an employment contract, express or implied;
- The person is being forced to sign an agreement waiving rights to which they are entitled;
- The person’s employer has not given them the benefits to which they are entitled under their employment contract.
When an employee is injured or becomes sick in their workplace, they may need to file a workers’ compensation claim. An employment lawyer may help an employee to file the most effective possible claim or to appeal a denial of benefits.
If an employee works in a non-unionized workplace and wants to try to unionize, the employee may well want to consult an employment lawyer. An employment lawyer can help by advising employees about their right to form a union and the activities in which they can engage in connection with that effort. They can inform employees of their rights, such as the right to be free of discrimination based on their protected union activity.
Of course, an employment lawyer can also advise employers about their rights and responsibilities regarding union workers and efforts of employees to unionize in an employer’s workplace.
A person should contact an employment attorney as soon as they become aware of an issue. If a person waits to contact an attorney, the delay could prevent them from proving the conduct committed by the employer and thus from recovering damages. Also, there are usually time limits to asserting rights and complaints under the law; any delay risks losing the right to file a claim or complaint.
When Should I Hire an Employment Lawyer If I am the Employer?
As an employer, an experienced employment attorney can assist an employer with a wide variety of issues related to employment. Many employment lawyers can educate employers about the state and federal laws that apply in the employer’s particular workplace. Of course, an employment lawyer can help ensure that employers are in compliance with those laws.
Employment lawyers may also help employers learn about their obligations in connection with the guidelines of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) as well as environmental regulations. Additionally, employment lawyers can defend employers before a range of governmental boards and agencies in the event that they are cited for non-compliance.
An employer should contact an employment attorney if:
- They need representation in collective bargaining negotiations with a union;
- An employee has filed a complaint for discrimination or harassment against them;
- When an employee has filed a lawsuit naming them as a defendant for an employment related matter; or
- The employer plans to lay off or fire a large number of employees, terminate an employee benefit, or change the current pension plan that it offers.
An experienced employment attorney can also assist you with legal issues other than employee-employer disputes. An employment lawyer can help review or prepare contracts and agreements that you use with your employees such as employment contracts, severance contracts, or releases.
Of course workplaces are subject to many different types of regulation by a number of different local, state and federal agencies, for example, OSHA. Of course, an employer would probably want to be in regular contact with an attorney who has expertise in the domains of regulation that affect the employer’s particular workplace. The employer would want the attorney to assess their compliance with applicable regulations on a routine basis.
How Much Will an Employment Lawyer Cost?
The cost of local employment lawyers can vary considerably depending on a variety of factors related to the lawyer’s skills, the area of law at issue in the situation and the details of a person’s individual case. Generally, attorneys charge their clients according to one of three types of fee schedules — hourly rates, flat fees, and contingent fees, which are as follows:
- Hourly rate: Most attorneys charge for employment cases according to a set hourly rate. In California, the median attorney hourly rate starts at $350 for smaller, less experienced firms and $450 for larger more experienced firms.
- Contingency fee: Under contingency fee plans, attorneys charge their clients a percentage of any award of damages that the attorney wins for the client if their case is successful. Generally, attorneys will receive a prearranged percentage depending on the stage at which the attorney wins an award, whether it is before trial or after a trial.
- Flat Fee: Sometimes attorneys will charge a flat fee for less complicated legal issues such as simple wills, an uncontested divorce, power of attorney, or even some minor criminal cases.
What Are Some Common Issues in Hiring an Employment Lawyers?
It is good consumer sense for a person to do a few things when they are thinking about hiring an attorney. One is to talk with more than one lawyer with expertise of the type the person needs before choosing one to hire. But find out first if the attorney charges for an initial meeting and if so on what basis (hourly, flat fee or other) and in what amount. Generally, a person will find that they feel most comfortable with one of the attorneys they interview and would prefer to hire that attorney.
Before meeting with a lawyer, a person should prepare themselves to describe their problem with a brief, clear summary. A person should ask the lawyers about their experience with the specific type of problem that they have, their fees, what their options might be, their chances of success, who will do the work on their case (whether the attorney or an associate), and when the problem might be resolved.
Why Should I Hire an Employment Lawyer?
If you are involved in an employment-related dispute, or if you need to ensure that you are in compliance with the many local, state or federal laws relating to employment, you should contact a local employment law attorney for assistance.
Depending on the nature of the issue you are dealing with, your lawyer can help make sure you are fully in compliance with applicable regulations. They can also represent you in a lawsuit, if necessary, against your employer or former employer.