When do I need to consider hiring an employment lawyer?

Do not wait until it is too late.

If you find yourself questioning the validity of the circumstances leading to the termination of your employment or some change in your work conditions; reporting relationship, policies or procedures; or the terms and conditions of employment, you should not put off consulting an experienced employment attorney.

I have seen far too many instances of not being able to do as much to help a client as I might have if I had been consulted when it appeared that termination might be imminent or before the change in circumstances finally prompted the client to see me. Considering the impact losing one’s job is likely to have on one’s financial stability, employment issues should be held in the highest regard.

In order to protect your assets, both current and future, you should never delay in contacting an authority on any issue involving the aspects of your employment.

When hiring an employment attorney, be sure to ask how the attorney’s experience in this field was built. This is the single-most important factor in deciding which lawyer you would want to be your advocate.

Do not be afraid to go with your instincts when it comes to hiring an attorney. Do not hire anyone without meeting them face-to-face and asking all the questions you need to ask to be assured of the attorney’s abilities, experience, and advocacy skills.

It does not matter how qualified an attorney is if you cannot build and maintain a good relationship with him or her. Remember, you and your employment lawyer will work as a team on your case. You do not just turn over the case and wait for it to be over. A good rapport and an open communication style are essential to a solid attorney-client relationship. If you don’t have both, find another lawyer.

Get clarity on fee arrangements up front. You should recognize most experienced employee rights attorneys will ask you for a fee to investigate your claim. Those who say they will accept your employment-related case on a pure contingent fee basis without conducting an investigation might not have the level of experience in this area of the law that you will need for your case.

An employment-related case is not like a personal injury case. There are many more defenses available to employers in employment-related disputes than are generally available to people or companies responsible for causing a personal injury.

A seasoned employment attorney is likely to ask you to pay a retainer equal to roughly 6 to 12 hours of work to investigate the underlying facts, research the law, and give you a professional assessment of whether your claim would merit formal legal action. Initial consultations to determine whether making such an investment might be worthwhile will cost you the value of between one and two hours of professional service.

Once a decision is made to sue the employer, experienced employee rights counsel generally will work with you in providing you with an array of flexible fee options. Make sure you ask about them in your initial meeting with your lawyer. If your agreement with your employment lawyer calls for his or her fee to be determined, in whole or in part, on a contingency basis, make sure you get the terms of the contingent fee in writing and insist on having the attorney provide in that written agreement for all possible outcomes of the case, including if you win or lose, if you settle before or after going to court, if your lawyer ceases to represent you for reasons beyond your control, and if you terminate the attorney’s services with cause or for your own convenience.

Are there time limits for bringing claims? What is the “statute of limitations?”

Potential civil actions against others must be commenced within certain time frames carved out by the state legislature or Congress by statute, hence the term “statute of limitations.” Claims not filed before the “statute of limitations” runs out are lost forever.

The limitation period generally begins on the date the claimant knew or should have known facts that he or she reasonably could have determined to serve as the basis for a claim. We say that this is the date on which the claim “accrued.” If a civil action is commenced after the last of the applicable limitation periods expires, no court has jurisdiction (i.e., judicial power) to hear the claim.

In Ohio, statutes of limitations run from as few as 30 days for some sorts of civil proceedings to as many as 15 or more years. Claims brought under federal laws may have their own limitation periods or they may borrow the limitation periods fixed under state laws.

An experienced employment lawyer can help you to identify all the limitation periods that apply in your circumstances and make sure you do not lose your claim by waiting too long to assert it.

What are the chances I could get a good settlement instead of having to go to court?

The best time to try to settle an employment-related dispute is when your employer is still worried about whether or not you will sue. Getting your employment lawyer involved at the earliest possible time may substantially improve your chances of successfully negotiating a settlement of your claim.

Once you assert your claim in some formal manner, such as a lawsuit or administrative complaint, management will hand off the responsibility for defending your case to the employer’s lawyers. Before then, management has to worry about all the distractions that may come with having to defend your claim, the burden this will have on meeting other deadlines and attending to the day-to-day business of the company, the inconvenience of having to deal with your claim instead of spending more time trying to make more sales, the expense of the defense and the impact those costs will have on the company’s budget and bottom line, and the uncertainty of letting a judge or jury decide a case that otherwise could be settled on negotiated terms satisfactory to the company.

An experienced employee rights attorney can help you understand your rights and appreciate whether your claim is more valuable than what your employer is offering to settle it.

If you are in the Cleveland or Akron areas and would like to have an employment attorney help you with understanding your options and map out a settlement strategy best suited to your individual circumstances, contact us today to schedule an appointment at a time convenient to your schedule.