How to Find an Employment Lawyer

By: Brad Nakase, Attorney

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Arlene works at Cajun Country, a restaurant in Tarzana that specializes in New Orleans-style cooking. For fifteen years, Arlene has worked as hostess at the restaurant, and as a Louisiana girl born and raised, she loves her work and her customers. Recently, Arlene has celebrated her sixtieth birthday, and while her fellow employees celebrated with a surprise party, her boss was not as thrilled. Bill calls Arlene into his office and explains that her age might be catching up to her. She’s not as quick to lead customers to their tables and isn’t as spirited as she once was. Ideally, he says, a hostess should be young and energetic. He tells her that he’s going to have to reduce her wages since she can no longer meet the standards of the position. Arlene is shocked. She feels that this treatment is unfair and looks up how to find an employment lawyer. After a little Google searching for a work lawyer, Arlene finds an employment lawyer in Tarzana who can help her file a lawsuit against her employer for age discrimination.

What Are Employment Lawyers?

Often referred to as work lawyers, employment lawyers are attorneys who specialize in employment law and represent workers in all positions across many industries. In California, employment lawyers understand workers’ rights according to the state’s labor laws and can help wronged employees sue and seek damages for improper or unlawful treatment at a workplace.

So, what does an employment lawyer do for a client?

First, they may review a client’s employment contract. An employment contract, often signed at the start of a job, is often full of complex legal jargon that is hard to understand. By finding an employment attorney, an employee can better understand what is written in their employment contract and how it relates to California labor laws. An employment attorney can help a client by identifying any part of the contract that may have a negative on the employee. They can also make recommended changes and instruct a client on how best to approach their boss about the subject.

An employment contract often contains information related to:

  • Pay – what the employee’s salary is and how it is paid
  • Overtime pay – what the company’s rules are regarding paying overtime
  • Medical leave – how much paid or unpaid leave is allotted to an injured or ill employee
  • Allowances – withholding tax exemptions
  • Vacation time – how much, if any, PTO an employee receives and how it is accrued
  • Working hours – how long an employee works in a day
  • Contract duration – how long employment is expected to last (i.e. six months, one year)
  • Job description – what the employee’s job duties are

Employment lawyers can also offer legal counsel in the event of a complex situation arising at a workplace. Before an employee files a complaint or joins a class-action suit, they should first consult with a lawyer to discuss the matter in detail. Especially if an employee is a whistleblower, exposing a company’s illegal conduct, it is important that he or she consult an attorney before taking any action. Whistleblowers might find themselves in a situation where they have incriminating evidence, and in order to expose it, have to risk breaching their contract. To prevent blowback or retaliation against the employee, it is best for he or she to have a lawyer to advise them.

There are different workplace situations that could require the advice of an employment attorney:

  • Endangerment

Example: Ronald works at a factory. His boss knows that the work environment does not meet safety standards, but to cut costs, he does not make the necessary changes. Ronald is injured at work, and he sues his boss for endangerment.

  • Workplace discrimination

Example: Chantel works at a real estate office. Her boss makes a comment about how women make bad realtors and follows it up with misogynistic reasoning. Chantel sues her employer for gender-based discrimination.

  • Bullying

Example: Bobby works at a thinktank. His boss often makes demeaning comments to him, calling him stupid or over-criticizing his work. Bobby sues his boss for bullying.

  • Unpaid wages

Example: Darla has just quit her job at a fast-food restaurant. She has three days of unused vacation time and expects to be paid for these earned days in her final paycheck. When she is denied payment for these unused PTO days, she sues her employer for unpaid wages.

  • Assault

Example: Yoni works at a construction site. When he accidentally drops an expensive sheet of glass, his boss marches over and punches him in the face. Yoni sues his boss for assault.

  • Damage to personal property at a workplace

Example: Vince works at a financial investment firm. When his boss loses a lot of money in a deal that Vince set up, he comes over to Vince’s desk, picks up his personal phone, and smashes the screen. He refuses to compensate Vince for the damage. Vince sues his boss for damage to personal property.

Discrimination Claims

Employment lawyers often manage discrimination claims, which are common employment complaints. Discrimination might include bias against:

  • Age
  • Race
  • Gender
  • Pregnancy
  • Sexual harassment
  • Wrongful termination

To return to our opening example, Arlene is a victim of age discrimination, because her boss is mistreating her based on age. He is illegally docking her wages and making disparaging comments about her age. She therefore has a strong case against him should she wish to file a complaint.

Let’s look at another example:

Keith works as a personal trainer at a gym in Hawthorne. For a while now, Keith’s employer has been openly making disparaging comments about African Americans. Keith is Black and finds the comments offensive. He also believes his boss treats him differently than the other employees based on his race. The problem is constant and getting worse. Keith is now uncomfortable in his place of work. He files a lawsuit against his employer for racial discrimination.

An employment lawyer can help an individual determine if their civil rights have been violated in the workplace and if it is possible to recover damages in a court of law.

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At Will Employment

At will employment means that the employer or the worker may end the employment relationship at any time. When an employment is at will, the employer can terminate employees for no reason.

Can You Get Fired for Looking for Another Job?

Firing an employee for looking for another job is legal under California Labor Code § 2922. Employees in California are employed on an “at-will” which means the employee or employer can terminate the working relationship at any time for any reason.

Can an employee be terminated while on medical leave?

It depends on the reason the employee is on medical leave. Under the FMLA, an employee cannot be terminated simply because they take leave. An employee is free to take medical leave without fear of losing their job. However, if there is a reason unrelated to the medical leave, an employer does have the right to terminate an employee.

Can Slack Admins Read DMs?

Yes. Slack admin and employer can read every DMs, private channels, private messages sent between team members. Employers on either Slack's free tier or paid tier need to submit a request to Slack before they can access your private chats.

Four Hour Minimum Pay

Yes - under California employment law, when an employee is scheduled to work an eight-hour shift, and the work is canceled, the employer must pay a minimum of four hours.

How far back do PAGA claims go?

A PAGA claim is generally one year from the date of the last employment law violation on which the PAGA claim is based.

FICA Withholding: What is FICA tax on my paycheck?

What is FICA tax on my paycheck? FICA is a federal wage tax. FICA taxes requires withholding from an employee’s gross earnings: 6.2% for social security and 1.45% for Medicare. The employer matches these percentages for a total of 15.3%.

Why Does EDD Do a Benefit Audit?

The EDD conducts benefit audits to help pay Unemployment Insurance benefits to only eligible claimants only, prevents fraud in the UI program, and helps companies control UI costs. The EDD’s responsibility is to collect payroll taxes and conduct payroll audits of businesses.

What Does PAGA Mean in a Lawsuit?

The word PAGA is an acronym for the Private Attorney General Act, which is the Labor Code that authorizes employees to file a lawsuit to recover civil penalties for themselves and other employees. PAGA confers a private right of action to individuals to prosecute under PAGA and incentivizes the employee to keep 25% of collected civil penalties.

What does an employment lawyer do?

An employment lawyer help employers and employees understand their respective rights and obligations, such as wages, wrongful termination, overtime, PTO, disability, discrimination, harassment, etc.

Can my employer call my doctor?

Generally, yes, your employer can call your doctor; however, the questions your employer ask is limited and protected by HIPAA Privacy Law. Your employer has the right to contact your doctor to verify the authenticity of a doctor’s note but cannot ask about your medical condition or diagnosis.

Can I Be Fired for Work Restrictions?

State and federal laws protect employees from employers firing employees because of work restrictions. If you’re fired at work, please get in touch with our employment attorney for a free consultation on work restrictions ignored by the employer.

What Qualifies as an EEOC Complaint?

The EEOC is a federal agency that investigates workplace discrimination and harassment based on race, gender, ethnicity, national origin, age, religion, medical status, and disability. There are time limits for filing a complaint with the EEOC.

EEOC Complaint Process

Before filing an EEOC complaint, employees should understand the entire EEOC complaint process. This article answers many Frequently Asked Questions on the EEOC complaint process.

Do guys get paid paternity leave?

A father is eligible for paternity leave if three conditions are met: 1) welcome a new child within the first twelve months; 2) Paid into the State Disability Insurance; 3) Has not taken more than eight weeks of paternity leave in the past twelve months.

California PTO Payout Law

California law declares vacation time to be earned wages, and vacation time is accumulated as work is performed. So, an employee who has the right to ten days of vacation per year will after six months of work earn five days of vacation time.

Suing For Unpaid Wages California

It is totally unfair for an employee to work and not get paid; employees have bills and rent to pay. Employees suing for unpaid wages in California can get help from an employment attorney.

How Much Does It Cost To Hire a Lawyer To Sue My Employer?

People often ask me how much does an employment lawyer cost? Employees generally have claims against the employer, and an employment lawyer typically works on a contingent fee - meaning there is no fee unless the lawyer wins the employee's case.

Employee Management

Employee management is the process of aid employees to do their best work daily to achieve the company’s goal. Employee management helps improve employee satisfaction and productivity to help a company achieve its overall goals.

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