Welcome to FindLaw's Employment Law Legal Help and Resources section. Although many employment law agencies, such as the EEOC, have procedures designed for people without lawyers, sometimes an attorney is absolutely necessary for quickly resolving a dispute. However, hiring a lawyer can be a confusing process, especially if you have never done it before. Here you will find information on hiring an employment attorney, as well as some helpful links to employment law resources on employee rights, state labor agencies, employment law terminology, and more. This can help you prepare for your initial consultation.
Employment Law Attorneys at a Glance
Disputes over employment terms -- hiring, firing, promotions, discrimination -- are quite common. There are two main types of employment law attorneys, those who represent employers and those who represent employees (typically the plaintiffs in such cases). Some attorneys work with both employers and employees, but most specialize in one or the other.
Larger employers typically have in-house employment lawyers who draft contractual language, review human resources policies, and generally work to limit an employer's legal exposure. Most of them never step foot in a courtroom, but mostly work to ensure compliance with local, state, and federal employment laws. Small businesses often have an employment lawyer on retainer, or seek one when needed.
When an employee needs legal representation, attorneys often work without pay until their client collects, whether it's a settlement or court-ordered damages. However, many employees are compelled to sign a pre-employment arbitration agreement requiring them to settle any disputes through the arbitration process.
When You May Need an Employment Law Attorney
A employment dispute can occur at any stage of the employment process, from hiring to termination and everything in-between. But while it is illegal to discriminate against protected individuals (women, racial minorities, the disabled) during the hiring process, it is extremely difficult to prove. So even if you have a strong hunch that you were excluded from consideration after your first interview solely because of your race, for instance, attorneys may not take your case without substantial proof.
But there are a number of scenarios where it makes sense to consult with an attorney in order to protect your rights. If you were discriminated against as an employee, an attorney can compare your treatment to the treatment of similarly situated employees for signs of bias. If you were denied overtime pay, a review of company records and some additional investigating may turn up evidence in your favor. Even without hard evidence, employers may choose to settle in order to avoid the cost and negative publicity of a trial.
Make sure you understand not only federal employment laws but also the laws of your state. Many states extend extra protections to employees not afforded through federal law.
Choosing the Right Lawyer
Besides choosing an employee-side employment lawyer, you may want to choose someone with special training or experience in the very issue you are handling. For instance, some attorneys specialize in employment discrimination or sexual harassment, while others are more focused on wage and hour claims. Before you sign anything, though, make sure the attorney clearly explains her billing arrangement.
Click on a link below to learn more about obtaining legal help for an employment-related dispute.