The Lacy Employment Law firm

The Lacy Employment Law firm

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A Different Type of Employment Lawyer: Philadelphia’s Litigators

Are you having trouble at work?  Maybe you are not getting along with your boss.  Perhaps you believe that your performance is good.  But you fear that your job is in jeopardy.  

You’re perhaps thinking about hiring a lawyer.  Yet you know that lawyers are expensive.  And you can barely afford your bills right now.  

Taking a step back, you might not even know the type of lawyer that you need right now.

If you believe that your job is in jeopardy, you need an employment lawyer.  Philadelphia has no shortage of great lawyers. 

 

 Photograph by Renee Zwillenberg

But you need someone that specializes in employment law.

An employment lawyer can:

  • Help you investigate your case;
  • Advise you on workplace employment law;
  • Negotiate a severance agreement;
  • Help you with your non-compete provision;
  • File a charge with the EEOC;
  • Initiate a case for you in federal court;
  • Take discovery;
  • Advocate for you at mediation;
  • Negotiate a settlement;
  • Win your case at trial;

The things that a good employment lawyer can do for you are numerous.  You should, however, first understand the difference between an employment lawyer and other types of lawyers.

Employment Lawyers Differ from Criminal Defense Lawyers and Personal Injury Lawyers

Almost every person I meet has an idea of what a lawyer is and what a lawyer does.  

A lawyer is a person who attended law school (required almost everywhere), passed the bar exam (required everywhere), and is now licensed to practice law in at least one state.

This is what all lawyers have in common.  But what a lawyer actually does depends entirely on the practice area.  A practice area is an area of law on which an attorney focuses.

For example, the question I get asked most often is whether I am a criminal defense attorney. Most people are familiar with this type of attorney. As most of you know, a criminal defense attorney routinely is in court.  

He or she will often take cases to trial.  And the lawyer’s goal is to defend his or her client from going to jail.

An employment lawyer is a civil attorney.  Under civil law, no one is going to jail.  Rather, our goal is to get money to right a wrong.

In this case, we will sue your employer for money because your employer wronged you.  

When most people hire an attorney, they think they need a great trial attorney.  Having good trial skills is important.  And we certainly have them.  

Reputable sources state that over 95% of cases end in a settlement. That means that in less than 5% of cases will you and your employer not agree to end the case before trial. 

If you look at the statistics, you do not need a criminal defense attorney who takes dozens of cases to trial.  Rather, you need an employment lawyer who focuses on employment law.

Skills that are most important:

  • Ability to understand which facts are crucial to your case;
  • Skill in legal writing;
  • Can analyze arguments for and against your case;
  • Shap negotiation skills;
  • Taking a winning deposition.

Because your employment case will almost certainly end before trial, these “pre-trial” skill become the most important for your case.

The Types of Law an Employment Lawyer Focuses On

The first principle of employment law is that employment is almost always at will.  At will means that your employer can fire you at any time for any legal reasons.  

Illegal reasons are reasons that violate employment law.  These employment laws are made up of federal, state, and local laws.

An employment lawyer focuses mostly on a combination of federal employment law statutes.  At the federal level, you have protections under:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”)
  • The Age Employment in Discrimination Act of 1967 (“ADEA”);
  • The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (“PDA”);
  • The American with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”);
  • The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (“GINA”); 
  • The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 (“FPA”); 
  • The Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”)
  • The Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”);

Federal law is the law that Congress passes.  These laws apply to every person in the United States.  Therefore, if your employer violates any of these laws, then you might have an employment claim.

As you can see, there are plenty of laws that an employer can break. 

These statutes fall within a few main categories.  Basically, there are buckets in which multiple types of employment claims fall.  

Philadelphia Employment Discrimination Lawyers Apply Federal Discrimination Laws

The broadest and most infamous set of protections are anti-discrimination laws.  Congress essentially created employment law when it passed these sets of laws.

Before, we largely thought of laws affecting the workplace as labor laws.  

However, in 1964, Congress passed legislation, known as Title VII, that prohibited discrimination in the workplace.

Congress’s passing of Title VII with other statutes like the ADEA, ADA, GINA, and PDA combine to prohibit discrimination on the basis of:

Now, federal laws protect every American from discrimination based on:

  • Sex
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Ethnicity
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Marital status
  • Pregnancy
  • Genetic information

Discrimination laws protect just about everyone.  Contrary to popular belief, they do not just prevent minorities and women.  For example, white men may have a claim for reverse racism under Title VII.

And, ageism at work applies to every person over the age of 40, regardless of race.  As you can see, they make up a larger percentage of employment law claims.  

Discrimination is often hard to prove.  People usually don’t admit that they are discriminating. Philadelphia employment discrimination lawyers focus specifically on proving these tough cases.

Sometimes we do it through direct evidence.  But most often we prove your case through pieces of circumstantial evidence.  

The Labor Statutes 

Employment lawyers also dabble in what some might consider labor law.  Philadelphia labor lawyers and/or employment labors help their clients work through leave issues and wage and hour issues.  

Your Rights under the FMLA

The FMLA is a statute that provides for unpaid leave.  The FMLA provides the following protections:

  • 12 weeks of unpaid medical leave, if you qualify, and have been with your employer for 12 months
  • You have the right to FMLA if you have a qualifying event, such as childbirth or a disability;
  • You have job protection while on FMLA;
  • You can sue for FMLA violations if you are fired while on FMLA.

Employers normally violate the FMLA when they interfere with or retaliate against a person attempting to take FMLA leave.

Interference with FMLA leave means that 

Your Rights under the FLSA

The FLSA is a statute that protects wages in the workplace.  The most well-known provision is the federal minimum wage.  

This act defines exempt employees vs. non-exempt employees.  Non-exempt employees must be paid by the hour.  And they are entitled to overtime pay. 

Exempt employees, on the other hand, are salaried employees.  Employers pay them a fixed salary over the course of the year.  The important distinction is that they do not receive overtime pay.

Employers often violate your FLSA rights by misclassifying employees for overtime or failure to pay minimum wage.  You may want to sue individually or join a class-action lawsuit.  

If you believe that your employer has violated the FLSA, contact a Philadelphia employment and labor law attorney.  

An Employment Lawyer can Help with Employment Agreements

Employment lawyers do more than just take cases to court.  Employment lawyers can also help with contractual disputes.

Employees often enter into employment agreements with their employers.  These agreements are actually contracts.

When both parties promise to do something and a party gives something of value, the parties have entered into a contract.

With employment contracts, employers and employees generally negotiate terms.  Typical terms include a cause provision.  A cause provision outlines when an employer may fire you.  

An employment lawyer can help you negotiate when an employer may fire you.  When you enter an employment contract, you are negotiating for your employment to not be at will.

Also, employers sometimes offer severance when they fire you.  Usually, an employer offers severance in exchange for you giving up your right to sue.

An employment lawyer can help advise you on whether you should give up this right.  Also, an employment lawyer can help you get more money.

Other Types of Employment Law

In addition to the types of employment law discussed, there are even more types of law that your employment attorney can help you with.  

These include:

  • Pennsylvania employment law;
  • Philadelphia employment law;
  • Defamation claims;
  • Intentional infliction of emotional distress claims;
  • Invasion of privacy claims;
  • Fraud and misrepresentation claims;
  • Negligent hiring, firing, retention, and training claims;

As you can tell, your Philadelphia employment attorney must have mastery over numerous types of law.   

This largely separates employment lawyers from other lawyers that take cases to court.  For example, personal injury lawyers largely need to know only negligence and strict liability law.

Negligence and strict liability laws are tort law.  Tort law is the law typically associated with personal injury.

Employment attorneys must know federal, state, and local statutory law, contract law, and tort law.

Initiating your Employment Lawsuit

If you are fired from your job, an employment lawyer will typically bring your case to court.  Before you can do so, you or your employer will have to file a charge with the appropriate administrative agency. 

For almost every employment claim, you must first go through the administrative process.  The process is set up for you to file a charge (claim) without a lawyer.  But that is not recommended.  

A lawyer can help you with the charge process.  You will have the opportunity to file multiple types of claims. For example, you may have a claim for age discrimination and race discrimination.

An attorney can help you decide which claims to file.

If you are worried about paying for an attorney, most Philadelphia employment attorneys work off contingency.  This means that we won’t collect a fee until you win money.

After you file a charge.  The administrative agency, normally the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) will investigate. 

The EEOC may decide to take your case for you.  But the EEOC typically decides to not intervene.  This means that you will have to hire your own attorney to sue.  

If the EEOC decides to not intervene, it will almost always give you the right to sue in federal court.

Bringing your Case to Court

After the EEOC gives you the right to sue, it’s time to bring your case to court.  Because there is no right to a jury trial on most employment law claims, employment attorneys in Philadelphia typically file lawsuits in federal court.

If you live in Philadelphia or the surrounding counties, your employment lawsuit will be brought in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (“Eastern District”).  

The surrounding counties of Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton and Philadelphia. 

The Eastern District is known for its tight deadlines with cases.  The cases move quickly from start to finish.  

Well, quicker than other courts.  

You need an attorney who is on top of deadlines.  And can handle the quick pace.  There are attorneys who fail to do so. This failure can hurt your chances of getting a good settlement. 

After we bring your case, we will:

  • Continue to investigate the facts;
  • Take discovery;
  • Likely participate in mediation;
  • Negotiate a settlement.

If your case goes to trial, we will prepare for it.  This includes preparing you to testify at trial.  Although most cases settle, we are never afraid to go to trial.

But the most important part of the process is pre-trial.  We will take depositions that show the other side the strengths of your case.

A deposition is where attorneys ask witnesses questions under oath.  The purpose is get information on the facts of the case.

But a good deposition can show your employer how good your case really is.  This helps drive a better settlement.  

Further, negotiation skills are paramount.  Because we are not afraid to go to trial, we are in a better position to wait for a good settlement offer.  Employers tend to want to avoid trial. Trial is always a risk for both parties.

Lastly, to succeed in any civil case, your lawyer must be able to apply the law to facts and persuasively put forth these arguments in writing.  

We call this writing motions and briefs.  Motions and briefs are essentially research papers that your lawyer puts together on your behalf.  Most of the time the judge decides an issue, he or she will do so based on these written papers.

Legal writing is perhaps the most important skill in an employment attorney’s arsenal. 

Philadelphia Litigation Style  

Litigation means that you bring a case to court to enforce a particular right.  We refer to lawyers who bring cases to court as litigators.

Philadelphia litigators are known for being fierce.  In fact, the term “Philadelphia Lawyer” has its own entry in the dictionary. 

It’s true, that sometimes Philadelphia employment attorneys are aggressive.  But aggressiveness is not always a bad thing.

For most Philadelphia attorneys, this means seeking higher damage awards and moving cases quickly to trial, if necessary.  

Some lawyers may take this a step further and engage in arguing for argument’s sake or even misstating the law.  

At The Lacy Employment Law firm, we will always aggressively pursue your case.  But we will never engage in behavior that detrimentally affects it.

We believe in showing not telling.  We file motions and briefs that are based on sound legal analysis and even better legal writing.  

When judges read our work, they will find legitimacy in your case and the cases we bring.  Further, your employer’s lawyer, from the papers we file, will understand and respect the fact that you have a good case.

This leads to a higher settlement.  

In sum, we will hold our ground.  We will pursue aggressive settlements or arguments at trial.  But we will let our work and your case speak for itself. 

Conclusion

There are numerous employment laws that a good attorney must know.  That’s why finding an attorney that focuses on employment law is important to getting a good outcome.

Has your employer discriminated against you?  Have you ever noticed that your paycheck is less than it should be?  Do you need help with your employment contract?

If you answered yes, give us a call.  We can help you in any area of employment law.  We offer free consultations and operate on a contingency basis for most of our cases.

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