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.

Author: Brad Nakase, Attorney

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What Does an Employer Lawyer Do?

An employment lawyer is an attorney who is experienced in managing disputes related to employment and labor laws. An employment lawyer may be hired to represent the interests of a worker, an employer, a company as a whole, or even a labor union. Most of an employment lawyer’s work involves giving advice to clients about various federal and state employment law, telling clients what rights they have legally, and making sure that their clients are in compliance with the relevant laws.

The following are some of the other responsibilities and tasks that an employment lawyer does”

  • Helping with filing complaints with the appropriate government agency, or filing claims in court.
  • Conducting legal research into past cases and documents.
  • Representing clients in lawsuits or in the process of alternative resolutions, such as mediation, arbitration, etc.
  • Working on cases such as employment discrimination actions, wage and hour lawsuits, third party lawsuits, and employment class action suits.
  • Filing a claim or assisting on an appeal for workers’ compensation benefits.
  • Counseling clients on matters related to labor unions and labor laws, such as collective bargaining actions.
  • Amending, drafting, and reviewing contracts and agreements related to employment.
  • Overseeing other legal matters that come up in the workplace.

What Is Employment Law?

Employment law concerns all matters related to the workplace, including benefits, salaries, and the legal rights of employers and employees. Employment, as a concept, ranges from the initial hiring of an individual through their termination. Therefore, employment attorneys practice in a wide-ranging issues.

An employment lawyer is a qualified legal practitioner who handles all kinds of legal and contractual matters from the working world. Regardless of whether employment rates are high or low at a particular time, employment lawyers will always find themselves in high demand.

How Do California Employment Lawyers Charge for Their Services?

The majority of lawyers charge their clients for services by using one or more of the following approaches:

  • Flat fees. Employment lawyers will generally charge a flat fee if they are handling straightforward or predictable matters, or issues that involve less complex legal work. This may include matters related to filing a complaint with a government agency on behalf of a client. A flat fee essentially means that a lawyer will offer a fixed, total amount upfront. That said, if a legal issue becomes more complicated, or more work is needed, then the fee may be adjusted. It is important to ask about specifics, including what tasks the fees cover prior to the lawyer beginning his or her work.

  • Contingency fees. This type of fee setup means that the attorney will only receive payment if the employment attorney wins the settlement or judgment for their client. The client does not need to pay any fees, but if the case is decided in their favor, then a percentage of their award will go to their lawyer. In California, a lawyer will generally take 30%. Contingency fees are common in employment law cases related to harassment, discrimination, and retaliation.

  • Hourly rates. The majority of employment lawyers in California charge by the hour for employment lawsuits. On average, employment attorneys charge between $350 (for inexperienced lawyers) and $700 (for experienced lawyers).

Specifically, the fees a California attorney charges a client for employment cases vary quite a lot, depending on a number of factors. These factors include how complex a particular case is, as well as how much experience a specific lawyer has in employment law.

What Determines How Much a California Employment Lawyer Charges?

As mentioned above, there are a number of factors may impact how a California employment lawyer determines his or her rates. These factors may include the following:

  • A lawyer’s skills
  • The lawyer’s expertise in various areas of employment law
  • How much time they spend on a case or issue
  • How complex the legal matter is
  • Whether the lawyer has any special certifications or training
  • The location of where legal services are offered
  • The reputation and size of their law firm

The above list describes the factors that go into deciding how much an employment lawyer will charge for their services. That said, a client should bear in mind that if their case goes to court, he or she will probably need to pay litigation costs. These include court fees as well as filing fees.

How Long Does an Employment Law Case Take to Resolve?

On average, it takes an employment lawyer between one and two years to litigate a California employment law case. If the result of the case is then appealed, it may take another year before the case is officially resolved. While this is the average length of time, every case is unique and might take shorter or longer depending on various factors.

For instance, the court schedule or the amount of discovery required can seriously impact the length of a case. In addition, parties might agree to settle the matter outside of court before the case gets to court.

Another factor that may issue the length of a case is the statute of limitations. For example, union employees have only six months to file a claim against an employer that breaches a collective bargaining agreement.

Conversely, an employee that is suing for employment harassment or discrimination has up to three years to file a lawsuit with the help of an employment attorney. This time limit does not include the time needed to file a complaint with the appropriate state agency, how long it will take the agency to perform its investigation, or the time it will take to send a right-to-sue letter to the employee before the case may be filed. This means that employment discrimination issues can take three years or longer to resolve.

Where Can One Find a California Employment Lawyer?

There are several ways to find an employment lawyer in California who can assist with matters related to employment and labor law. First, one should begin with asking friends and families for recommendations. If these individuals do not know anyone, or if one does not feel comfortable discussing the issue with them, then one many conduct a simple online search for local employment lawyers.

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What is an EDD Audit?

An EDD audit is a payroll tax audit initiated when a former worker you classified as an independent contractor applies for unemployment with EDD.  The EDD thinks you misclassified the worker as an independent contractor and audits your company. 

Using PTO for Paid Vacation Time

PTO is any time an employee gets paid while away from work, including paid vacation time. PTO is paid time off, meaning a worker may use PTO for any reason, such as paid sick leave or paid vacation time.

When to hire an employment attorney?

You should hire an employment attorney as soon as you are aware of the issue or believe something is wrong and that the employer is not remedying the issue, such as harassment, wrongful termination, or discrimination.

Is PTO Required by Law?

Employers in California are not required to provide any PTO, such as paid time off or paid or unpaid vacation, to their employees.

Are 10 Minute Breaks Mandatory in California?

Employers in California are required by law to give non-exempt employees one 10-minute rest break for every four hours worked. A non-exempt employee is generally a worker who is paid by the hour and not by salary.

Is Unpaid Training Legal in California?

Yes, unpaid training is illegal in California. California employers must pay for mandatory training. Employees not paid for meetings or job training can sue for unpaid training.

Can PAGA Claims Be Arbitrated?

The U.S. Supreme Court clarified on June 15 that companies can compel arbitration of an employee's individual of an employee's individual PAGA claim, the non-individual claims should be dismissed.

Can you get fired for dating a coworker?

Most employment is generally at-will, so employers can fire an employee for dating a co-worker. However, if the co-worker you're dating was not fired, the employer firing you could be considered gender discrimination, and you can file a lawsuit.

How to report a company paying employees under the table?

A worker can report cash wage "under the table" by hiring an attorney or reporting to EDD. Before you say that the employer is paying under the table, you should ensure that it is illegal because it is not illegal if done correctly.

Can an employer take away earned PTO?

Paid Time Off or PTO cannot be taken away or forfeited when the pay accrues as earned. An employer is prohibited from taking away earned vacation time to punish you.

What Makes a Strong Retaliation Case?

The standard for proving a retaliation case requires the worker to show that the supervisor's action against the worker might deter a reasonable worker from reporting discrimination or participating in the EEOC complaint process.

Do you get paid for training at a job?

Under California employment law, employers are legally obligated to pay employees for time spent training for a job. It is illegal for employers to require employees to undergo unpaid training.

What is paid time off?

Paid time off - also known as personal time off - is when an employee takes off work while still getting paid by the employer. Likewise, personal time off is when an employee gets paid or unpaid while away from work.

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.

13 Wrongful Termination Examples

Employees wins millions of dollars in wrongful termination lawsuits against their employers. If an employee has been dismissed for the reason that is deemed illegal in California, then they may be able to sue their former employer for wrongful termination.

How do I know if I am exempt from overtime pay?

As of 2023, to be exempt from overtime pay, you must make at least $62,400.00 per year or $5166.66 per month. To be classified as an exempt employee, your salary must be at least twice California's minimum wage for full-time employment. 

Women’s Rights When Experiencing Sexual Harassment at Work

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) makes it illegal for employers to allow anyone to be sexually harassed at work by anyone else, regardless of sexual orientation, gender, or sex. Women who experience sexual harassment at work may experience a range of negative consequences, including mental and physical health problems, lower earnings, and career interruptions.

How to respond to a notice of PAGA lawsuit?

5 steps to defend a PAGA lawsuit: 1) contact a PAGA lawyer after getting a PAGA Notice, 2) locate the arbitration agreement, if any, 3) determine if the safe harbor provision of the PAGA state applies, 4) compile a list of all employees that were similarly situated, 5) Collect the employee's manual.

What happens if you get an EDD audit?

An EDD audit is a process of verification that you have correctly withheld and reported personal income tax for wages paid to your employees. If you get an EDD audit, you may be liable for a wide range of fines, interest, and penalties on taxes that you owe.

What are the 4 Caregiver rights in California?

California caregivers are entitled to rest breaks, meal breaks, minimum wage, overtime pay for working over 8 hours per day, and double time for working over 12 hours, including overnight stays. Employers often face lawsuits from caregivers for violating caregivers’ rights, such as basic wages.

Terminating Employee with Cancer

Cancer is protected under the Disability Act, which protects an employee from retaliation and discrimination because of health impairment related to a cancer diagnosis. An employer cannot discriminate against an employee upon discovering that an employee has a severe illness or cancer.

Can I be fired for work restrictions?

No, you cannot be fired for work restriction if it is based on disability. However, an employer can fire an employee in some situations if the employee has work restrictions.

Annualized Compensation

An annualized compensation is to a predetermined gross pay per month paid to an employee for twelves months, totaling an estimated annual income.  In other words, annualized compensation - also known as annualized salary - is an estimate of how much pay an employee will earn over the course of a year if they were to work the full year. For example, teachers commonly do not work summer months and therefore need to annualized their salary for reporting taxes.

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