You don’t have to put up with improper, unethical, or illegal behavior at work. State and federal laws protect workers. Here’s what you need to know before reaching out to employment lawyers.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission “forbids discrimination in every aspect of employment. It is illegal to discriminate against someone (applicant or employee) because of that person’s race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to retaliate against a person because he or she complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.”
How Employment Lawyers Help Protect Federal Workers
If you plan to file a federal employment case, you must file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission before contacting an employment attorney. The EEOC will issue a Notice of Right to Sue, which gives you permission to file a lawsuit in federal or state court.
6 Cases for Employment Lawyers
Employment law is complicated because it involves federal and state laws and multiple legal subspecialties. Here are 6 of the most common kinds of cases:
1. Employment Contracts
There are many kinds of employment contracts. Three of the most common are:
- Non-compete agreements that restrict employees from going to work with competing organizations for a stipulated period of time. President Biden issued an executive order instructing the Security & Exchange Commission to investigate the use of NCAs, and many states have rules to limit the use of these contracts. Tip: Look for employment lawyers specializing in contracts.
- Severance agreements, which are not required by law but may be part of union agreements or in place under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (in which case, they must comply with the requirements of the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act to be legally enforceable). Tip: If you think you have a case, it’s important to hire either a severance agreement attorney or an employment contracts lawyer to make sure you get what you deserve.
- Non-disclosure (NDA) or confidentiality agreements (CA) that prevent one party from sharing proprietary information with a third-party. Violating these agreements may lead to a breach of contract case, an unfair competition claim, or an intellectual property claim such as trade secret misappropriation and copyright infringement. Tip: Depending on the specifics of your case, you may need an attorney specializing in contracts or intellectual property.
According to the EEOC, these acts constitute harassment in the workplace: slurs, graffiti, offensive or derogatory comments and other verbal or physical conduct that creates an offensive or hostile work environment or leads to the victim being fired or demoted. You can also file harassment charges if you experience uninvited and unwelcome verbal or physical conduct because you complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit. Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other conduct of a sexual nature. Read more about harassment.
3. Wage Theft
Though not a legal term, the accepted “wage theft” definition is intentionally not paying employees earned income. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, most employers are required to pay a minimum hourly wage and a higher rate when workers log more than 40 hours in one week. Unpaid overtime and wages can result in significant fines from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. Federal statutes of limitations on these cases are generally two years.
Tip: Since standards, enforcement and statutes of limitations vary by state, it’s wise to hire employment lawyers with direct wage theft case experience in your location.
4. Workers’ Compensation
Workers’ compensation mitigates the financial burden associated with injuries on the job, such as motor vehicle accidents related to work (but not commuting), or slips, trips, and falls. Federal employees must file workers’ compensation claims with the Department of Labor. However, employees of organizations or state and local government agencies must contact their state workers’ compensation board. While you may be able to handle your own case, the workers’ compensation system is complicated and time-consuming.
Tip: When interviewing potential attorneys to take your case, ask specifically about their experience with workers’ compensation claims.
5. Workplace Discrimination
Workplace discrimination examples include issues such as:
- Using racial slurs toward employees
- Calling foreign workers “terrorists”
- Telling immigrants to leave America
- Retaliating against employees who report discrimination and harassment
6. Wrongful Termination
You may need a wrongful termination lawyer if you were dismissed from your job based on any of the discriminatory factors above. In addition, employment lawyers can protect you from retaliation for any of the following:
- Taking family medical leave
- Either reporting or refusing to participate in illegal and unethical acts
- Filing for workers’ compensation benefits
Don’t let a lawsuit impact your health, livelihood, and future. Employment lawyers can help you protect your rights, your ability to work and your financial security.
Ready to start seeking justice and compensation? Complete your free online employment case evaluation now!
Margot Lester is the CEO of The Word Factory, a content marketing agency based in North Carolina that provides services for international healthcare brands, tech companies and SaaS developers. An award-winning business and brand journalist, she writes for daily and weekly newspapers and business journals, national magazines, in-flight publications and leading websites. Margot is also an in-demand writing coach and organizational communications trainer, helping individuals and teams write more effectively. LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/margotlester.