In the traditional American workplace, the relationship between employer and employee can sometimes be tricky at best. This is because employers usually have a great deal of power. While employees are legally protected from employer misconduct, employment laws are complicated.
If you have a dispute with your employer, it is crucial to have an employment lawyer on your side. Keep reading to learn more about what this type of attorney does and when you might need one.
The employment lawyer’s role
An attorney practicing employment law tackles matters ranging from simple disagreements to extensive violations of applicable laws. He or she typically provides legal advice or advocacy for clients in:
- Wage/hour claims
- Disability cases
- ADA violation claims
- Labor union disputes
- Creation and review of company policies and employment contracts
- Other relevant matters
This means these attorneys must be familiar with numerous aspects of the law. They must also be able to work with different government departments and agencies. This is because some matters, such as discrimination claims, also warrant investigation by applicable government agencies. Employment lawyers may also work with various authorities to ensure that employers comply with relevant immigration laws
When to consult an employment lawyer
Consider consulting an experienced employment lawyer if:
- Your employer is mistreating you, or you believe you were wrongfully fired or laid off.
- You are thinking about quitting your job because of your employer’s alleged misconduct.
- You want someone to represent you in negotiations with your employer regarding severance pay.
- You are unsure of your rights or what to do after you have been fired.
- The “statute of limitations” or deadline for filing a lawsuit is almost up and are still unsure of how or where to file a claim.
- You are being pressured to sign documents related to your employment or termination from your employment that you do not understand.
- You want to pursue legal recourse in state or federal court.
- You are aware of numerous co-workers who want to bring the same type of claim against the same employer.
- You are unhappy about the outcome of a governmental agency’s (such as the EEOC) investigation of your complaint.
- You have compelling evidence that you were wrongfully terminated from your job.
How an employment lawyer can help
Because your employer will undoubtedly have a qualified attorney on their side, it is essential that you have one, too.
An experienced employment lawyer will not only be well versed in relevant laws and court procedures, but he or she will also know:
- Which information is critical to your case
- How to obtain it
- How to present witnesses and documents at trial
- How to keep your employer and their lawyer from using unfair tactics against you in and out of court
The importance of getting prompt legal advice
If you want to make a claim against your employer, it is crucial that you speak with an employment lawyer as soon as possible. If you don’t, you will not know which steps you can take to keep matters from getting worse, or how to document incidents that may help prove your case.
Proper documentation is critical because you must be able to prove an illegal motive, such as discrimination or retaliation to win your case. If you do not keep track of incidents as they occur, you may not have sufficient evidence to do that. Without adequate proof, your claim may boil down to your word against your employer’s word. If so, it will be that much harder to prevail.
Let’s say, for instance, that you get a poor job evaluation. Your company then puts you on a performance improvement plan. Now let’s say your boss also threatens to fire you. By consulting an employment lawyer, you can learn about your options for legal recourse and how to gather evidence for your case. As we have noted, documenting relevant events as they occur is vital because the proof can be used to refute your employer’s claim of poor performance.
Finding the right employment lawyer for you
If you think your employer broke state or federal laws by mistreating you and/or your co-workers, you may be tempted to deal with it on your own. In most cases, however, you will need an attorney to help you resolve a serious conflict.
While you may have avoided work-related disputes or disagreements for most of your career, employers and their attorneys may deal with them on a regular basis. This means they have resources and knowledge that you simply do not have, putting you at a significant disadvantage without an employment lawyer.
Once you decide that you need an attorney, the next step is finding one. Begin by getting several names and speaking with at least two attorneys before retaining someone.
Be sure to consult with attorneys that practice employment or labor law. An attorney practicing in any other area may not necessarily have the skills to help you fight your employer. This is because employment law is a constantly evolving area of the law with significant ambiguities. Therefore, hiring an attorney who has extensive knowledge of the rules, codes, and statutes governing employer and employee conduct is essential. It is also important to hire an employment lawyer who represents individual employees, instead of employers.