An employment lawyer supports clients who need representation in a lawsuit or conflict at their workplace. While no one wants to be in the position to hire an employment lawyer, knowing what kinds of cases they take on, and what your rights are, is an important part of being an informed employee.
What Do Employment Lawyers Do?
Employment lawyers represent both employers and employees. Their primary role is to address workplace conflict that is in direct violation (or accused violation) of employment law.
Employment Lawyers for Workplaces
While many assume that employment lawyers are the last ditch-effort of a disgruntled employee, employers can also benefit from working with a lawyer for the following situations:
- Creating an employee-handbook
- Litigating employer/employee disputes
- Arbitrating non-competition agreement violations
- Consulting on labor or tax laws
The most common issues that bring in employment lawyers are wage or compensation and workplace discrimination or harassment. Employers and companies might need a lawyer to help them defend a claim from an employee about a payment discrepancy, or an accusation of harassment within their workplace.
Their primary role is to address workplace conflict that is in direct violation (or accused violation) of employment law.
However, working with an employment or labor lawyer to help a workplace craft its employee handbook is a wise way of getting ahead of any future disputes. When companies bake accountability and protection directly into their handbook, as well as an acknowledgment of employee rights, they can prevent costly litigations and hostile work environments.
An employment lawyer can also support a company with a non-compete agreement. Non-compete agreements are employment contracts in which the worker agrees not to work for a competing company. Employment and labor lawyers are critical in drafting these agreements, and, should violations occur, representing the company in those arbitrations.
Employment Lawyers for Workers
Because much of employment law is designed to protect the worker, most violations of employment law result in the workers bringing a suit against their company. There are many reasons why a worker might want to sue their workplace. Some include:
- Discrimination based on a protected identity
- Labor and tax violations (such as determining whether an employee is non-exempt or an independent contractor)
- Union disputes or violations
While discrimination lawsuits are particularly high-profile, other workplace conflicts might need support from a labor or employment lawyer.
One conflict might include independent contractors who believe their client is taking advantage of their services. Independent contractors are self-employed individuals who are hired on a contracted basis to do work for the employer but are not considered employees of the company. Employers do not have to offer these individuals benefits.
Some workplaces do not always understand that by hiring these individuals as contractors, they are not necessarily allowed to dictate their work in the same way as they would an employee.
Similarly, employees might seek out an employment lawyer to handle cases of missed over time if they are non-exempt employees but are denied their right to overtime pay. Some parameters help workplaces determine who is exempt and non-exempt, but they can get confusing.
For example, most exempt employees earn a higher salary and tend not to track their worked hours, though this is not always a hard and fast rule. Some non-exempt employees are “salaried” rather than hourly employees. If an employer is confused about the difference between these classifications, an employment lawyer can help.
Finally, employee unions seek the services of labor lawyers who can represent the unions in potential workplace disputes.
When Is it Time to Get an Employment Lawyer?
If you are wondering whether you need an employment lawyer, there are a few questions you can ask yourself first:
- Do you have documented evidence of a labor or employment law violation at your workplace?
- Have you tried to address the conflict with your employee or employer first, using the company-wide resources available to you?
- Are you looking to create official, company-wide documents that outline an employer or employee’s legal rights in the workplace?
If you have answered yes to those questions, working with an employment lawyer might be the right call.
For employees, working with an employment lawyer can bring justice and relief. Though many labor laws exist to protect you, they often vary state-by-state. Most states also offer at-will employment, which means that employers do not need a specific reason to terminate your position.
However, there are certain situations in which an employer cannot act to terminate your job. These include the protected identities mentioned above (such as gender expression or sexual orientation, age, racial identity, and/or disability). In many states, employers are also not allowed to fire you as retaliation.
The most important thing you can do as an employee before turning to an employment lawyer is to gather documented evidence of the violation. This is particularly critical for workplace harassment suits.
If employers have discriminated against their employees, their employees can go to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This federal commission supports employees who are trying to determine whether they have enough evidence or a strong enough case to sue their employers.
It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Employers can and should work with employment and labor lawyers to get ahead of potential legal troubles. Seeking legal consultation for workplace
Stay Informed, and Stay Protected
Employment lawyers are usually called in when situations and conflicts have become untenable. This can turn the conversation about employer and employee rights into a headache.
However, employment and labor lawyers are crucial assets to both workplaces and workers. Their specialties range from employment discrimination, workplace harassment, wrongful termination, labor, and hostile work environment.
These attorneys’ jobs are to pursue workplace justice. This justice might be in the form of an employee who settles after they were discriminated against by their employer or an employer who needs legal counsel about tax withholdings for their various contractors and employees.
No matter the specific case, knowing the right time to reach out to an employment lawyer can save time, save money, and bring about resolution.