Do I Need a Lawyer?
Many employees pursue employment claims without attorneys before government agencies (such as the EEOC, Michigan Department of Civil Rights, National Labor Relations Board, Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Consumer and Industry Services). The person files a charge or complaint, which is investigated by the agency. If the agency determines that a claim has substance, it will pursue it.
Many employees are disappointed with this process. There are substantial backlogs and often lengthy delays in investigating the claims. The agency personnel are frequently not as diligent or as knowledgeable as experienced attorneys and are not able to uncover the evidence of illegal employer conduct. If a person has a credible and substantial claim, it is in most circumstances best pursued in court with the assistance of an experienced lawyer.
How Do I Get a Consultation?
I offer free telephone or email consultations to persons who believe they may have employment claims. If you call or email me and I am not in court, with a client, taking a deposition, or otherwise unavailable, you should be able to get an immediate answer to your questions. If I'm unavailable, I usually am able to respond to requests for free consultations no later than the next business day. I ask that all potential clients give me their names and identify their employers so that I can make sure there is no conflict of interest. I will then ask the person to describe the situation, and ask follow-up questions to determine whether he or she has an issue that could be successfully pursued. If so, I will then schedule an appointment.
How are Attorney Fees Paid?
I offer three basic fee arrangements. For matters that are likely to result in a fairly significant monetary recovery, I may offer a contingent fee agreement where any attorney fee is paid out of the recovery, normally at the standard rate of one-third of the gross recovery. Clients always have the option of an hourly fee agreement where attorney fees are paid based on the time spent regardless of the outcome. For smaller matters involving limited time (such as review of severance packages or non-competition agreements) I offer a reasonable flat fee.
What Types of Damages are Recoverable?
In most employment cases an employee can recover the value of his or her lost pay and benefits and damages to reasonably compensate for emotional distress caused by the employer's illegal actions. Some employment claims do not permit recovery of emotional distress damages, and under the federal discrimination laws emotional distress damages are "capped" at $300,000. Most employment laws provide for the recovery of attorney fees, but these are likely to be recovered only where a case is taken to trial and won.
How Long Will it Take?
Most employment matters that I pursue are settled. If a settlement can be reached without filing a lawsuit, the usual timeframe is 30-90 days. If a lawsuit has to be filed, the time until settlement will likely range six months to a year. If a case cannot be settled and goes to trial, the time is likely to exceed a year with an additional two to three years for appeals to be exhausted. Because of the uncertainty of outcome and the lengthy delays, I encourage clients to consider settlement.