How to Find A Good Employment Attorney Near Me?
Employment attorneys are attorneys that specialize in handling cases that involve the breach of a person's legal rights in the workplace. Several federal, state and local laws exist to protect employees and to provide compensation when their rights are infringed on. Issues between employers, employees, and customers like workplace harassment and discrimination, contract disputes, wage issues, and wrongful termination are common occurrences in the world of employment. In 2020 alone, a total of 67,448 employment-related charges were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Employment attorneys play a vital role in the filing and handling of these employment-related charges by representing aggrieved employers and employees in matters involving disputes over wages, harassment, work safety, and discrimination. These attorneys perform various workplace-related tasks, which include:
- Overseeing the hiring of employees
- Managing employee relations
- Handling employer-employee disputes
- Drafting legal documentation like contracts or claims
- Conducting wage, settlement, and other types of negotiations
- Advising employers or employees on aspects of labor law
- Ensuring the implementation of agreements
- Representing clients in a lawsuit
- Researching documents, statutes, and previous cases to develop legal arguments
Working with the wrong employment attorney to handle your employment-related issues can have a huge negative impact on your employment status and subsequently on your finances. To help you avoid this, here is a list of questions to ask before hiring an employment attorney near you.
Where Are You Licensed to Practice Employment Law in The State You Are?
Employment lawsuits are generally filed at the relevant state’s trial courts. The court where an employment lawsuit is filed is generally determined by the location of the alleged wrongdoing and the residence of the parties and filing a case in the wrong court can lead to a dismissal of the case for lack of jurisdiction. However, under certain circumstances, an employment lawsuit may be filed or transferred to a federal district court. These circumstances include situations where the employment lawsuit involves federal employment law, a federal constitutional issue, or if the parties are from different states.
To appear before a state trial court, any employment attorney near you must be licensed to practice law in that state. Attorneys must meet certain requirements before this licensing, beginning with passing an entrance examination called the Law School Admission Test, attending and graduating from an American Bar Association-approved law school, and then passing the state’s bar examination. The requirements for gaining admission to practice law in a federal court vary from one court to another. For instance, to practice in the United States District Court, Northern District of California, an attorney must be an active member of the state’s bar and must be of good moral character. On the other hand, getting admitted to the U.S District Court, Southern District of Texas requires that an attorney be licensed to practice law in any state in the country.
You can find out if an attorney near you is allowed to practice in your state’s trial courts or a federal district court by visiting the American Bar Association’s lawyer licensing page or contacting the federal court in question respectively.
What Kind of Employment Law Work Do You Handle?
It is always a good idea to find an employment attorney near you that has had practice handling matters like yours. Some of the various kinds of employment-related matters that are commonly handled by employment attorneys include:
Discrimination - Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects certain classification of people and prohibits workplace discrimination based on age, sex, race, religion, color, national origin, disability, and genetics. If a person that falls within any of these categories claims employment discrimination, the EEOC is obligated to investigate those claims. Signs of discrimination in the workplace include favoritism, unequal pay, exclusion from coworkers, failure to allow reasonable accommodations, and receiving more responsibilities with no raise. Other adverse actions by an employer include discriminatory decisions in employment, promotions, job training, pay, discharge, benefits, and other areas of employment. Note, you cannot file an employment discrimination lawsuit in federal court until you have filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC.
- Wrongful termination - An employee who gets laid off for false or unfair reasons may file a claim for wrongful termination. When an employer fires an employee, this employee needs to be informed of the legitimate reasons why that decision was made and to have those reasons documented. To determine whether a termination was wrongful or not, one of the first steps to take is to review the company’s policy handbook and check whether your employer broke any of the rules there. If you are still unsure, it is best to consult an employment attorney as soon as possible.
- Personal Injury Claim - These types of claims arise when a worker is injured or suffers some kind of harm due to an employer’s negligence. This may be as a result of faulty equipment or lack of adequate safety tools and guidelines. When this happens, employees can file to receive compensation for any injuries suffered while they were reasonably acting within the scope of their employment.
- Sexual Harassment - Sexual harassment in the workplace involves not only sexual advances, but also verbal attacks such as insults, innuendos, and name-calling, as well as physical acts like hitting, groping, and other inappropriate forms of touching. It also involves demanding sexual favors in exchange for work privileges.
- Retaliation - Retaliation in the workplace happens when an employer takes negative actions against a worker for engaging in activity that is legally protected. An example is taking punitive actions against an employee for complaining about sexual harassment or discrimination is illegal. Signs of retaliation include reduction in salary, termination, demotion, or job reassignment.
Wage contract disputes - In the workplace, wage disputes can be categorized into wage negotiations and withholding of wages. Federal and state laws require employers to pay at least the minimum wage to employees. The employee-employer contract should expressly state the contract duration and amount of wages. If an employer pays a salary amount that is different from what was promised, the employee can file a claim.
That an attorney near you specializes in employment law does not make that attorney an expert on all types of employment law. An employment attorney could have a lot of experience handling wage contract disputes but may have never handled workplace discrimination cases. Therefore, it is important to find out the area of employment law an attorney specializes in before hiring. This helps you ensure that the attorney has the right expertise and experience to handle your case.
How Long Have You Been in Practice?
Employment law is a complex area of law, and it pays to have an employment attorney near you that has years of experience and expertise in this field. These experienced employment attorneys typically know the effective means and strategies to ensure the best possible outcome for you in your employment-related issue. Therefore, you must find out how much experience your attorney has in handling cases similar to yours, and not just their general experience in employment law. Note that generally, the more experienced an employment attorney is, the higher the legal fees are likely to be.
Do You Charge Fixed or Hourly Fees?
A major cause of disagreements between attorneys and their clients is fees and payment. As such, make sure you get all the details about costs and fees from your employment attorney. Employment attorney charges generally depend on factors like the type of employment issue and the possibility of going to trial. Employment attorneys usually charge in one of three ways, fixed fees, hourly rates, and contingency fees.
- Fixed Fees - An employment attorney may charge a flat fixed rate for less complicated matters, predictable cases, and straightforward issues. However, this happens rarely. For instance, an employment attorney may charge a fixed fee of $300 to draft a simple employment contract.
- Hourly Rates - These types of fees are commonly utilized for cases that are limited in time or scope. For instance, an attorney may charge an hourly rate to draft a wage complaint that is to be filed with a federal or state agency that regulates anti-discrimination laws. Paying an hourly fee is advantageous for you if the scope of the attorney’s work is relatively small, like negotiating a better work package or reviewing a contract. However, hourly rates are not a good option if you intend to file a lawsuit against your employer. Court trials are time-consuming and may take years to resolve. As such, the hourly fee could very quickly roll into tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. If an employment attorney charges you by the hour, ask the attorney to estimate the total number of hours your work is most likely to take. That way, you can estimate the total cost of the case. Depending on the law firm, an employment attorney may charge an hourly fee of between $75 and $250.
- Contingency Fees - Under a contingency agreement, the employment attorney receives an agreed percentage of the court award or final settlement. This means that your employment attorney only gets paid if your claim is successful. This is the most common type of fee arrangement used by employment attorneys. An attorney’s willingness to charge you on a contingency fee basis is typically a sign of the attorney’s faith in the strength of your case. Note that there is no fixed percentage for employment lawsuit contingency fees. However, employment attorneys tend to charge about 30% -33% of the settlement if the case does not make it to court, and 35% - 40% if the case does go to trial.
Always find out the exact cost of pursuing your case and the system of billing. Will it be a fixed fee, hourly fee, or contingency fee system? Inquire about other expenses that pursuing the lawsuit may incur and whether you will have to deposit some money in advance to cover those expenses.
Do You Charge For an Initial Consultant?
Like most attorneys, some employment attorneys near you would offer free first consultations, while others would charge an hourly or fixed fee for the initial meeting. This initial consultation is where you discuss the details of your case and determine whether or not the attorney will take on the case. Before going to this meeting, be sure to find out whether you will be charged for the consultation and, if you will be, how much the fee is.
How Do You Keep Clients Informed About Their Case?
Attorneys have a standing ethical obligation to inform their clients about the progression of their cases. This is especially required when there are significant developments in the case and when the client requests information. Your attorney must inform you promptly of any events that may directly affect your case outcomes. From the onset, it is important to agree on how often your employment attorney will give you regular updates about your case. You and your attorney should also decide on the means of communication that are most suitable and effective for you both. This can be through emails, phone calls, or video conferencing.
Note that your attorney may not always have the time to personally attend to you when you have a question or a situation with the case. As such, it is a good idea to find out who to directly contact if an emergency comes up and whether you will have access to alternatives like your attorney’s secretary, associate, or paralegal.
Who Will Actually Do The Work?
Unless your employment attorney is a solo practitioner, the attorney’s junior lawyers or even paralegals will probably play significant roles in dealing with your case. Like most attorneys, employment attorneys near you do have legal assistants or paralegals who handle research and the paperwork. You should ask for more details about these individuals. Find out their level of expertise and experience, how much involvement they would have, and whether your employment attorney will play a significant role in the case. The American Bar Association requires attorneys that employ non-lawyers like legal assistants and paralegals to oversee their activities, and so you should make sure that this rule is enforced.
Can You Provide References From Former Clients?
An employment attorney with experience and a good reputation should be ready and willing to provide you with an extensive list of references, including clients near you they have served. These references can give you an idea of your attorney's level of expertise and rate of success. They also help in building trust and ensure that you hire an attorney who is skilled, credible, and experienced in handling cases similar to yours. You can look up your attorney's law firm on unbiased review sites like Better Business Bureau and Google Review. You may also check your attorney's website for client testimonials. It is advisable to contact your state's bar association to find out your attorney’s disciplinary records if any.
It is a good idea to be prepared when contacting these references by making a list of all the questions and concerns you want them to address.
What is Your Success Rate?
Hiring an employment attorney near you that has experience with cases like yours is very important. However, you should also hire an attorney who is likely to succeed. Although each case is unique, you want an employment attorney who has a record of securing the best possible outcome for clients. As such, do not hesitate to ask an employment attorney about their success rate. To verify any claims made by your attorney concerning this question, you should contact previous clients. Alternatively, you can check court records of the cases the attorney has handled in the past. Most employment case records are public records and accessible to all members of the public. However, the procedure to access these court records vary from court to court.
When Should I Hire an Employment Attorney?
When filing an employment claim or dealing with employment-related issues, hiring an employment lawyer nearby is always in your best interest. Although it is not a legal requirement, the complexities of employment claims require an employment attorney’s expertise. You should consider hiring an employment attorney if you find yourself in any of the following situations:
- You are being harassed or discriminated against in the workplace
- You were wrongfully terminated
- You are a victim of unfair labor practices such as denial of equal pay, wages, overtime, and tip pooling
- You are being retaliated against for a legal action you took
- You are being misclassified as an independent contractor
- Your employer denied you leave
- Your employer violated the Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) or the Americans with Disability Act claims
- You are being sexually harassed in your workplace
- You are having workplace safety issues
- Your employer infringed on your privacy rights
- Your employer has denied you employee benefits such as retirement plans and leaves of absence
- You want to create employment contracts
- You want to draft an employment handbook
- You are facing a harassment or discrimination claim
- You are terminating a worker’s employment
- You are involved in an employment lawsuit
- You are conducting or taking part in employment law-related negotiations
Note, victims of workplace harassment and discrimination have a limited timeline to file a charge with the EEOC. This is usually between 45 and 300 days, depending on the circumstances of the case.
What Are the Typical Qualifications Held By an Employment Attorney?
An employment attorney must have a law degree from an approved law school. This degree can only be obtained after getting a bachelor’s degree in any course of their choosing and completing three years of law school study. To stand out as an expert in the field, employment attorneys may also obtain board certification from professional organizations like the National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA) and the National Employment Law Institute (NELI).