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When To Hire an Employment Lawyer and What to Expect

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Employment lawsuits are becoming increasingly common in the United States, with a growing number of employees seeking legal assistance to address labor law violations in the workplace. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), there were over 60,000 charges of discrimination in 2021. If you are an employee who has experienced a labor law violation, protecting your rights and seeking justice may be necessary.

In this article, we’ll discuss some common situations where hiring an employment lawyer may be necessary, the qualities to look for in your lawyer, and how to hire the perfect attorney for your case. Whether dealing with discrimination, harassment, wrongful termination, or other labor law violations, an employment lawyer can provide the legal support and guidance you need to navigate the complex legal system and achieve a fair outcome.

Do I Need an Employment Lawyer?

While most employers strive to create a fair and safe working environment for their employees, disputes, and issues can arise. In these situations, it may be necessary to hire an employment lawyer to help protect your legal rights and interests. In this article, we’ll outline some common reasons why someone might need to hire an employment lawyer to navigate workplace disputes and issues.

Discrimination

If an employee believes that they have been discriminated against based on their race, gender, age, religion, or disability, they may need an employment lawyer to help them understand their legal rights and pursue legal action if necessary. Discrimination can take many forms, such as an employer refusing to hire or promote them based on their protected characteristics or paying them less than other employees who perform the same job duties. 

Harassment

Harassment in the workplace refers to unwelcome behavior by an employer, supervisor, or co-worker that creates a hostile or offensive work environment. This can include sexual harassment, such as unwanted sexual advances, or bullying in the form of verbal abuse and threatening or intimidating behavior.

Wrongful Termination

If an employee has been terminated unfairly or without cause, an employment lawyer can help them understand their legal rights and pursue legal action against their employer. Some common examples of wrongful termination include discrimination, where an employee is fired based on their protected characteristics, and retaliation, where an employee is fired in retaliation for their complaints about discrimination, harassment, or other illegal conduct in the workplace.

Wage and Hour Issues

Wage and hour issues refer to disputes between employees and employers over the employee's compensation and work hours. Some examples include unpaid overtime, minimum wage violations, and meal or rest break violations. Additionally, employers who misclassify employees as independent contractors to avoid paying them benefits or employers who fail to provide employees with earned vacation or sick time fall under this category.

Contract Disputes

If an employee has a dispute with their employer over the terms of their employment contract or severance agreement, an employment lawyer can guide the appropriate steps to take and can help the employee negotiate a favorable outcome. This can include a breach of contract, where the employer fails to fulfill its contractual obligations, or non-compete agreements that are overly strict or unreasonable.

Qualities To Look For in an Employment Attorney

Hiring an employment lawyer can be a wise decision if you're facing a workplace dispute. But with so many lawyers to choose from, it can be overwhelming to know what qualities to look for in an employment lawyer. In this list, we'll highlight some important qualities to consider when selecting an employment lawyer to ensure that you find the right person to represent you and protect your rights in the workplace.

Good Communication Skills

An employment lawyer should be able to communicate effectively with clients, explaining complex legal concepts in simple terms. This involves several aspects of communication, including active listening, being responsive to their client’s inquiries, and being able to argue persuasively on behalf of their clients. 

Experience and Expertise

Looking for a lawyer with extensive experience and expertise in employment law is essential. This knowledge should extend to employment law issues, including discrimination, harassment, wrongful termination, wage and hour matters, and contract disputes. 

Strong Negotiation Skills

A good employment lawyer should be able to negotiate effectively with employers and their legal representatives to resolve disputes and achieve favorable outcomes for their clients. In addition, clients can be better positioned to successfully resolve their employment law cases by finding a well-prepared, creative, and confident lawyer.

Reputation

Look for a lawyer with a solid reputation in the legal community, including positive reviews from former clients and peers. In addition, a reputable lawyer should maintain a high level of professionalism, be recognized by industry organizations or peer groups, have a track record of success in the courtroom, and be involved in their local community. 

Attention to Detail

An employment lawyer should have a strong attention to detail, as employment law cases often involve complex legal documents, such as employment contracts. A lawyer with this skill will carefully review all records, thoroughly prepare for a case, analyze all case details, pay attention to small details during courtroom proceedings, and communicate clearly and accurately with clients, opposing counsel, and the court.

Compassion and Empathy

A compassionate and empathetic lawyer will understand the client's perspective, communicate clearly and sensitively, prioritize the needs and goals of the client, and treat the client with respect and dignity. By finding a lawyer with these qualities, clients can be confident they will receive high-quality legal representation and emotional support during a potentially challenging time.

How To Find and Hire an Employment Lawyer

Hiring an employment lawyer can be a crucial step in protecting your rights in the workplace, but it’s important to find the right lawyer for your needs. Here are some steps you should take when looking to hire an employment lawyer:

1. Determine your needs

Identify the specific legal issue and the type of lawyer you require. Employment law is a broad area that covers various topics. For example, if you're facing discrimination in the workplace, you may need to hire a lawyer specializing in discrimination cases. On the other hand, if you're experiencing issues with unpaid overtime or minimum wage violations, you may need an attorney with expertise in wage and hour law. 

To determine your needs, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the legal issue or problem I’m facing at work?

  • What specific area of employment law does this issue fall under?

  • What are my goals in resolving this issue?

  • Do I have any documentation or evidence to support my claim?

  • Are there any deadlines or time limits that may apply to my case?

You can narrow your search by identifying your needs and finding a lawyer with the specific experience and expertise to help you address your legal issue.

2. Research potential lawyers

Look for lawyers with experience and a strong track record in employment law. Here are some ways to research potential lawyers for your case:

  • Online research: Use search engines and legal directories specializing in employment law. Expertise.com has an online directory of the best employment lawyers, searchable by metro area. Check out each lawyer’s website to learn more about their background, expertise, and practice areas. 

  • Referrals: Ask friends, family members, or colleagues if they can recommend an employment lawyer. Personal referrals can be a great way to find a lawyer with a proven track record of success and who you can trust.

  • Professional networks: Consider using professional networks, such as LinkedIn, and connecting with lawyers specializing in employment law. You can find lawyers with experience in your industry or who have worked with people in similar situations.

3. Schedule consultations

A consultation is typically a brief meeting to discuss your case and ask questions to help you decide whether the lawyer is a good fit for you. Many lawyers provide these free of charge.

Your consultation will allow you to ask the lawyer about their experience and expertise in employment law. You can learn about their track record of success in similar cases and assess whether they have the skills and knowledge necessary to handle your case. 

It is also important to discuss your goals and objectives for your case, and to ask questions about the lawyer’s fees, the estimated timeline for your case, and their approach to handling employment cases. This can help you understand what to expect and whether the lawyer’s approach aligns with your expectations.

4. Make a decision

After you've researched potential lawyers, scheduled consultations, and evaluated your options, it's time to decide and choose the employment lawyer who is right for you. Be sure to thoroughly consider the lawyer's expertise, communication style, and fees to ensure they comply with your needs. Remember that hiring an employment lawyer is an important decision, so take the time to choose the right one for your goals.

Legal Resources for Employees

While hiring an employment lawyer is often the best course of action, only some have the financial resources. Fortunately, several legal resources are available to individuals facing a labor law violation or lawsuit. This list will discuss some legal aid organizations and government agencies that can assist employees with labor law issues.

National Labor Relations Board

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is an independent federal agency responsible for enforcing and interpreting the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which guarantees employees the right to organize and bargain collectively with their employers and protects their rights to engage in concerted activities.

Employees who believe their rights under the NLRA have been violated can file a charge with the National Labor Relations Board. The organization will investigate the charge and determine whether a violation has occurred. If a violation is found, the board may issue a complaint against the employer and hold a hearing before an administrative law judge. 

State Labor Departments

Each state has its labor department, also known as the Department of Labor (DOL) or the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), responsible for enforcing state labor laws and providing resources for employees subject to labor law violations. State labor departments typically have a range of responsibilities, including investigating allegations of labor law violations and administering state labor laws, such as minimum wage and overtime laws. 

In addition, state labor departments provide resources for employees subject to labor law violations, such as information on filing a complaint, legal assistance, and referrals to other resources.

Legal Aid Organizations

Many legal aid organizations are available to individuals who have experienced a labor law violation or are going through a resulting lawsuit. These organizations provide free or low-cost legal services to individuals who cannot afford private legal representation.

There are several legal aid organizations at the state or national level to assist employees with labor law violations, including the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) and the National Employment Law Project (NELP).

The LSC funds legal aid organizations throughout the United States that provide various legal services, including representation in labor law cases. Similarly, NELP is a non-profit organization that advocates for workers’ rights and provides legal assistance to low-wage workers.

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