When Is it Time to Talk to an Employment Attorney?

Employment attorneys help both employers and employees solve disputes. They can assist in finding solutions in the event of workplace disagreements. This could be anything from a conflict over wages, workplace safety, discrimination, as well as wrongful termination. But how do you know when it is time to hire an employment attorney?

In the event of a workplace problem, an employment attorney can streamline the resolution process. They help employees and employers resolve complicated and stressful employment disputes. There are a number of ways your employee-employer relationship could become strained. It’s helpful to learn more about what an employment attorney can offer. They might help if you’re facing a dispute about:

What exactly is an employment attorney?

In employment law, there are generally two types of employment attorneys. The first type works primarily with plaintiffs. That means they generally work with employees as an employment discrimination attorney. They are also called employment rights attorneys, or federal employment attorneys. The second type works primarily with defendants. This means that they work with employers. Sometimes they are also known as management attorneys. 

In nearly all cases, employment attorneys focus on one side or the other. There are rare exceptions, however. Sometimes employment attorneys take clients from both sides. 

What do employment attorneys do?

Employment attorneys can deal with any aspect of working and employment. This could include any of the following:

  • Discrimination
  • Sexual harassment
  • Wage disputes
  • Overtime issues
  • Safety issues

This is not an exhaustive list. A plaintiff’s employment attorney is a lawyer that can help employees learn if their rights have been violated and if action against their employer would be worth their time. When you work with an employment attorney, he or she will first make sure that the employee has done everything possible to resolve issues without legal action. These measures typically are detailed in employee handbooks. 

Next, if the problem has to do with overtime, proper pay classification (non-exempt vs. exempt status), on-time pay, or overtime an employment attorney will look into the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This means he or she will see if your employer has violated your rights according to the FLSA. The employment attorney will then help the employee figure out the best next steps. 

There are many labor laws. This makes it easy for employers to violate them either unknowingly or knowingly. There are so many different tenure thresholds and employee counts for different laws. Accordingly, an employment attorney is often necessary to help navigate the laws clearly.  

When should I hire an employment attorney?

When an employee thinks an employer has done something wrong and the employer has not fixed the problem, it might be time to speak to an employment attorney. This does not mean that the employee would necessarily use an attorney’s services right away. Most employment attorneys offer free consultations. This is when an attorney goes over your case and helps you determine whether or not the laws have been violated. The employee may also go directly to the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  However, it may take longer to find a resolution by going directly to the EEOC without an attorney. 

Do you work in a small company and the person you are facing issues with is the principal or CEO of the company? The first step would be to file an administrative complaint with the state or federal government. Doing this properly, however, is difficult without the help of an experienced employment attorney. 

After filing an administrative complaint, the state or federal agency will investigate your case. It will determine whether or not there is enough evidence to prove there was a violation of employment laws. It’s possible that the agency will find enough evidence that there was a violation of the laws. However, the employee still has the right to file a lawsuit. The agency should be able to either help the employee, or suggest that the employee should find an attorney.

Hiring an employment attorney

At this point, an employee might want to speak to an employment attorney. This is in order to find out what their rights are and whether it would be worthwhile to pursue a lawsuit. This is because the agency’s findings are not final. Sometimes, they are not even admissible because those agencies do not do extensive investigations. There are no depositions or cross-examinations in agency interviews. Although they do some interviews, the investigation is not as thorough as the one an employment attorney would complete. 

Sometimes, the U.S. Department of Justice will take someone’s case. However, they only take a very limited number of cases. It’s usually only when they are seeking to set a nationwide precedent. It could also be when a very large company is involved in widespread discrimination or harassment. 

It is possible to win a lawsuit against an employer even when the EEOC found insufficient evidence of a violation. But sometimes employers win when the EEOC finds enough evidence of a violation. Working with an experienced employment attorney will increase your chances of winning. 

What should employees do to protect themselves?

If an employee believes he or she is being discriminated against, or not being paid correctly, they should keep accurate records. Record dates and times as well as descriptions of the incidences. Keep note of any witnesses. Save all emails and correspondences. This will help the agency or your employment attorney during the investigation phase of your case. 

What should employers do to protect themselves?

All companies, no matter how big or small, should have an employment handbook. In it, there should be a list of policies and regulations in place for equal opportunity employment. The handbook must clearly state how employees can file complaints with the company. It should instruct employees how to register grievances over discrimination. Once an employee files a complaint, employers are required to investigate and determine whether or not there was a violation of the law. 

Do freelancers need employment attorneys?

Freelancers are independent contractors. Legally, they are their own companies. They are not employees. This means they have limited rights in terms of employment laws. Some states like California and New York offer protections for independent contractors. In most other states, freelancers are only protected by individual contracts and agreements.  They must negotiate these themselves with companies. Other companies have no duties to hire or rehire freelancers.

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