So this article recently popped up on my twitter feed (@sam__cannon). You should check it out; it’s interesting. Since I’m on the employees’ side though, I thought I’d add my two cents about when an employee should get an employment lawyer.
“Advokat, Engelsk advokatdräkt, Nordisk familjebok” – http://bit.ly/1w6FYXf
I’d love to sit here and tell you to hire a lawyer at the first sign of trouble at work. But that’s not realistic. Sometimes a lawyer is necessary, but sometimes a lawyer will just be a waste of money. Even worse, a lawyer might escalate a minor problem and make it harder to fix. I hope this article will help you identify which situation you’re in.
In theory, this is simple. Call an employment lawyer if you think you’ve suffered from an illegal employment practice and you’ve been fired, you’ve quit, you’re about to be fired, or you’re about to quit. Got that? If not, some details should help it make a little more sense.
When I say ASAP, I mean it. As soon as something illegal happens to you at work, the clock starts running. For harassment and discrimination claims, you have 6 months to file a charge of discrimination with either the EEOC or the CCRD. If you don’t, you will never be able to bring a claim. The more time your lawyer has to prepare before the deadline, the easier it is for him or her to put the best possible case before the agency.
There are a whole lot of illegal practices that can lead to strong claims against an employer and should make you find an attorney. Here are just a few: failure to pay overtime; forcing you to work during unpaid breaks; discriminating against you on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, religion, disability, pregnancy, or age; sexually or racially harassing you; firing you for complaining about any of these things; or firing you for complaining about something illegal your employer is doing.
So why call a lawyer if you haven’t yet quit or been fired? Well, most of the time, the best solution to an employment problem is fixing the problem without litigation. So it’s much better if a lawyer can help you solve the problem and help you keep your job.
If your employer is mistreating you, you’ve complained, and nothing’s changed, start planning to get a lawyer. Also, if something is so wrong that you don’t think you can complain about it, you’re in this category. This sort of situation is hard to identify, though. Keep two factors in mind: how severe the problem is and whether you’ve complained yet.
If the problem is so bad that it’s affecting your life outside of work, this is where you fit. Losing sleep, relationships, or your hair because of your job is not OK. If things have got to this point, you’re likely to need some help getting yourself out. Getting in touch with an employment lawyer is probably the best next step.
Once you’ve complained about a problem, one of two things usually happens: your employer fixes the problem or your employer goes after you. If you’ve complained and your employer hasn’t changed anything, you might be the one who’s going to get changed. Consider getting a lawyer if you’re worried this might happen to you. Otherwise, you might soon find yourself in one of the positions described in the “Call Now” section.
Call When Able
If you think something’s not right about how you’re being treated, you may want to call an attorney. But, if you haven’t complained and it’s not affecting your life outside of work, you might want to wait a while.
Most companies want to do the right thing by their employees. They don’t want to discriminate against you, harass you, or pay you unfairly. That means you’re probably able to fix your problem without a lawyer. Find your employee handbook (if you have one), look up your employer’s complaint procedure, and follow it. Usually, this will help. It might not make everything perfect, but it’s the best first step. Make sure you keep good notes though; sometimes things go south.
Let it Go
Not all bad workplace practices are illegal. Employers can often treat their employees like trash and not break any laws. It’s sad, but it’s true. If you are in a situation like those listed below, skip talking to a lawyer and start looking for a new job.
You’re being discriminated against or bullied for any reason that is NOT race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, religion, disability, pregnancy, or age. You got fired for no reason at all. You’re being paid minimum wage and can’t afford to support your family. You got fired because your boss doesn’t like you. The list goes on, but you get the idea. These are all terrible things to do to employees, but they are not illegal and an employment lawyer can’t help you. Sorry.