If you have been wrongfully terminated from your job, or if you are being harassed, discriminated or face a hostile work environment, you may be overwhelmed thinking about how to fight for your rights and hold your employer or former employer accountable. When you are looking for a Los Angeles employment law attorney with the right kind of experience and resources, you are also probably justifiably concerned about what all this is going to cost you.
When you are setting out to retain the services of an employment lawyer, which is a crucial step in your pursuit for justice, it is important that you know what you should look out for and what you can expect as you commence this process.
RETAINING AN EMPLOYMENT LAWYER: THE BASICS
Employment-related issues such as workplace discrimination, sexual harassment, wage and hour issues, workplace health and safety and family and medical leave issues often give rise to disputes between employers and employees. If you are in this situation, an employment law attorney can review your complaint or case against your employer and advise you regarding next steps and a clear course of action. A majority of these cases are typically settled out of court.
However, sometimes, they may end up before a jury. You need an experienced lawyer who is a skilled negotiator, but is also prepared to take the case to a trial if necessary. Not all employment matters might necessitate the use of an employment lawyer. However, California employment laws are complex and it takes significant legal expertise especially when there is a lot of stake for you. Employment laws are also constantly evolving. An experienced lawyer will be able to advise you on any new changes that might have an impact on your case.
HOW CAN AN EMPLOYMENT LAWYER HELP?
An employment lawyer can help your workplace dispute case in the following ways:
Clarity and understanding: An experienced Los Angeles employment law attorney can help provide clarity and understanding by helping you clear the confusion and comprehend what might appear to be complex laws. Since there are state and federal laws governing employers and employees, understanding what laws apply to your case could be even more challenging. A knowledgeable employment lawyer can offer you the guidance you need and provide you with accurate information to help you make the right decision.
Knowledge of the claim process: An experienced employment attorney also knows the process of filing a claim or lawsuit and the deadlines that must be met in the process of doing so. For example, when a claim is filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), not going through the steps diligently and failing to meet all the deadlines could result in the denial of a claim. Compiling all documents thoroughly and submitting them before the deadline can be one of the most important parts of the process. Working with an employment lawyer will give you relief and peace of mind you deserve. It also gives you the best shot at a positive result in your case.
Providing an edge: Retaining the services of an employment lawyer can give you a much-needed edge in your case because now you have a professional who is looking out for your rights and best interests. Nearly all employers will have their own lawyers protecting them. Larger corporations may even have an entire team of attorneys. If you are trying to hold your employer accountable for illegal actions in the workplace, they may not even take your claim or lawsuit seriously if you don't have quality legal representation.
Discovery: An employment attorney can help you deal with complex court proceedings. One such process is "discovery" where attorneys question witnesses under oath in the presence of a judge. Statements obtained in discovery can and often, will be used during the trial. Often, this process can give plaintiffs significant leverage, depending on the facts of the case.
WHAT SHOULD YOU LOOK FOR IN AN EMPLOYMENT LAWYER?
Employment law attorneys handle a wide range of employment-related disputes including severance pay, breach of contract, privacy, wage and hour issues, and so on. When you are looking to retain an employment lawyer, it is important to focus on the lawyer and/or firm's experience in this particular area of law, skill levels, resources, knowledge and fee structure.
An employment lawyer should stay on top of current state and federal labor laws, proposed legislation at the state and federal level as well as regulations set forth by organizations such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). A good employment lawyer will also explain their fee structure to you at the very outset so everyone is on the same page when it comes fees, billing and other costs that are incurred during the course of litigation. Your lawyer should also give you an approximate timeline of when your case may be resolved.
Here are a few characteristics to look for when you set out to hire an employment lawyer:
Employment law focus: Make sure the lawyer or law firm you pick focuses on employment law. You don't want a law firm that handles all types of cases. Employment law is a very specialized field. When you pick a lawyer who specializes in this area of the law, you know that he or she is up to date with learning about new laws and has a thorough understanding of what it takes to fight and win your case.
Background check: A majority of sites including the California Bar Association have information regarding whether or not an attorney has been disciplined. You want an attorney who is a member of the State Bar. An attorney in your state and your geographic area is more likely to be familiar with state and local laws. For example, the minimum wage in a municipality such as Los Angeles or San Francisco is different from the state minimum wages.
Advocate for employees: You want a lawyer who is an advocate for workers as opposed to a lawyer to represents both employers and employees in these types of cases. When you choose such a lawyer, you have no question where his or her loyalties lie and you know they have the passion to fight for your rights and help you get the best possible outcome.
Specific experience: Find someone who has specific experience representing cases such as yours. For example if you are considering filing a sexual harassment lawsuit, it is important that you seek out an employment lawyer who has represented clients in similar cases and has a track record of winning. Look for a lawyer with specific experience and expertise that matters to your case.
HOW DO ATTORNEYS CHARGE FEES?
The kind of arrangement you make with your attorney can, in the end, affect how much you will pay for legal services. Attorney's fees depend on a number of factors including the amount of time your case take's up, the lawyer's ability to take on the case, his or her experience and reputation, the level of challenge presented by the case, the results obtained and the actual costs involved. Some of the other factors that affect the total cost include overhead expenses including rent utilities, office equipment, etc.
Here are some of the common types of fee arrangement and cost structures employed by lawyers:
Consultation fees: Some attorneys may charge a fixed or hourly fee for the first meeting. Some of the things that are discussed in this initial meeting include the details of your case and a determination of whether or not the lawyer will take on your case. Before you come to the meeting, be sure to establish whether you will be charged for this initial meeting and if so, how much.
Contingency fees: A lawyer's fee is typically based on a percentage of the amount awarded in the case. Your lawyer will not get a fee if you lose the case and don't recover compensation. But, you will have to pay other expenses. Contingency fee percentages might vary, but usually, this will be one-third of what is recovered. Some lawyers offer a sliding scale based on how far the case has progressed prior to the settlement. Courts also typically set a limit on how much contingency fee a lawyer can receive.
Flat fees: In some cases, a lawyer may just charge a specific, total fee. This type of flat fee is rare, but may be charged in instances where a case is relatively simple or routine.
Hourly rate: In such cases, the lawyer will charge you by the hour or portion of the hour that he or she works on your case. This is a typical fee arrangement for most attorneys. Some lawyers charge different types of fees depending on the work that is performed. In addition, lawyers who work for large firms might have varying fee scales. For example, more experienced or senior lawyers may charge more fees compared to younger lawyers or paralegals.
Referral fees: A lawyer who gives you a reference to another lawyer may take a portion of the total fees you pay for the case. The total fee should however be reasonable and you would be required to agree to the arrangement.
Retainer fees: The lawyer is paid a set fee in such cases. The retainer is like a down payment against which future costs may be billed. The retainer is typically placed in a special account and cost of services is deducted from that account. These types of fees are non-refundable.
It is important that you ask your lawyer or law firm what costs and other expenses are included in the fee. Does it include the attorney's overhead or other costs, or will you be charged separately for those? How will the costs for staff members, paralegals and other employee be charged? If the firm charges contingency fees, be sure to find out if the lawyer calculates the fee before or after the expenses. At Kingsley & Kingsley, we offer a no-win no-fee guarantee. This means we don't charge you any fees until we recover compensation for you.
HOW CAN YOU PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS?
If you are facing a potentially harassing, discriminatory or retaliatory work environment or if you have been wrongfully or illegally terminated from your job, there are a number of steps you can take in order to preserve your rights:
Remain calm and collected. You do not want to say anything to your employer that could portray you in a poor light or anything that can be used against you in a lawsuit. So, in these circumstances, it is best to remain tranquil and collect as much information as possible that could help bolster your case. At no point should you raise your voice or become confrontational. That could work against you.
Report the incidents promptly. If you are facing a hostile work environment, it is important that you report the incidents promptly to a supervisor or to the human resources department. Make written complaints and keep copies of all documents that you submit and all the responses from your employer.
Keep a record of all incidents. Whether they are emails or internal memos. Be sure to save them. This could help determine the consistency with which the harassment or discrimination occurred. It would also be a good idea to get contact information for other individuals who may have witnessed the incidents.
Contact an experienced lawyer. Your employer likely has an attorney or a whole team of attorneys to protect their best interests. You need a strong advocate on your side fighting for your rights and looking out for your best interests. The experienced Los Angeles employment lawyers at Kingsley & Kingsley have nearly 40 years of experience fighting for the rights of employees who have been harassed, discriminated or retaliated against. We are passionate in our pursuit for justice and fair compensation for our clients. If you believe your rights as an employee in California have been violated, call us at 888-500-8469 to obtain more information about pursuing your rights.