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Employment lawyers represent both employees and employers, though they are more commonly associated with employees. There are many situations where you may need to hire an employment attorney. The main job of an employment attorney is to help you with any rules and regulations relating to the workplace.

As an employee, you may need to hire an employment attorney to handle wrongful termination or workplace discrimination cases. You may also need an attorney when negotiating a contract, or if you want to become a whistleblower. Based on the needs of your case, as well as your financial situation, you may be able to find free legal assistance.

If you are an employer, there are fewer situations where you need an employment attorney. In most cases, you bring in an attorney to help with contract negotiations, or if you are making major changes to the workforce. This can include changing a pension plan or closing down a company branch. You can also hire an attorney if an employee is bringing a case against you.

Working with Employment Attorneys as an Employee

There are many ways an employment attorney can help you as an employee. If you believe your working rights are being violated, you can arrange a consultation with an attorney to explain your situation and find out whether you can take legal action against your employer. If you do have a case, your attorney will advise you on your next actions. Your lawyer often acts as a mediator between you and your employer before filing an official case, though in extreme cases, your lawyer may skip right to litigation.

Outcomes of Employment Cases as an Employee

There are two common outcomes of employment cases when you are an employee. Before you begin negotiations, make sure to speak with your attorney so you are both on the same page in the desired outcome. For discrimination cases, the biggest decision you must make is whether you want to stay at the company, or if you want to leave. If you have no intention of staying at work, or you were wrongfully terminated and do not want your job back, you can sue for damages.

  • How much you sue for depends on many factors, including the reason for your wrongful termination and your previous salary. A good employment attorney can include extra damages, including lost wages and reimbursement for any pain and suffering you went through from the wrongful termination. There are federal regulations that determine the maximum you can sue for, based on the size of the company.

  • If the company has between 15 and 100 employees, you can only sue for $50,000 in damages.
    This increases to $100,000 if the company has 100 to 200 employees, $200,000 for 201 to 500 employees, and $300,000 if the company has over 500 employees.

If you want to retain your job, you can sue for damages, but you are normally advised to seek a lower amount. Normally, your attorney will negotiate an appropriate amount with your employer. This is usually based on your lost wages. You may press for more damages, but lawyers often advise against this, as it can make remaining at work tense and uncomfortable between you and your employer.

Working with Employment Attorneys as an Employer

As an employer, you rarely use an employment attorney for litigation. Instead, the lawyer acts as a legal consultant, ensuring you are not violating any workplace laws. It is common to consult an employment lawyer when you are setting up a major contract, such as buying out or merging with another business. If you are hiring a high-profile employee, you may want to consult with an employment lawyer to make sure the contract is iron-clad. This is especially important if you want to include additional stipulations, such as an NDA or a non-compete clause.

Because employment lawyers largely work as consultants, there are less outcomes to consider. If you hire an attorney to act as a negotiator with a disgruntled employee, your attorney either seeks an agreement between both parties or will attempt to convince the attorney to drop his or her case.

Costs of an Employment Lawyer

The costs for an employment attorney vary based on your needs. The process is easier if you are hiring as an employer. In most cases, you are charged a straight consultation fee by the lawyer. Normally, the fee is per consultation but in more involved cases, your lawyer may set an hourly rate.

The costs are more complicated if you are an employee. There are three possibilities. The first is your lawyer charges a contingency fee. With a contingency fee, your lawyer is only paid if your case is successful, with the lawyer receiving a percentage of your settlement. In simple cases, such as acting as a mediator during a meeting, your lawyer may charge a flat fee. Otherwise, your attorney will charge you by the hour. There may also be additional costs, such as research or filing fees.

If you are concerned about costs, you may be able to get pro bono services. When an attorney represents you pro bono, you do not have to pay any costs. Normally, an attorney only accepts pro bono cases if you are below a financial threshold. However, in certain work cases, you may be able to find a pro bono attorney. This is most common with discrimination cases, especially if you are a larger corporation. The American Bar Association has several online resources to help you find law firms or non-profit groups offering pro bono assistance in your state.