If you’ve been wrongfully terminated, or you feel you’re the victim of workplace discrimination, harassment, unsafe working conditions, or wage and hour violations, you might want to just let it go—but that would be a mistake. In recent years, many victimized California employees decided not to let it go, sued their employers, and won multi-million dollar settlements. To cite just a few examples:
- Mercy General Hospital (Sacramento) paid $168 million in a sexual harassment lawsuit judgment
- Tesoro Refining and Marketing Company (Los Angeles) was forced to pay $8.5 million in a disability discrimination lawsuit judgment
- Sears (Sacramento) paid $5.2 million in a race discrimination lawsuit judgment
- Rite Aid (Los Angeles) paid $3.5 million in a disability discrimination lawsuit judgment
- Qwest Communications (San Francisco) paid $2.3 million in a sexual harassment lawsuit judgment
More Employees Are Seeking Justice
The number of employees, in California and across the nation, who are no longer willing to let it go is increasing. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, since 2005, the number of wrongful termination lawsuits, for example, has increased “significantly” every year.
To be successful in an employment lawsuit, you need a skilled employment attorney. Here are 7 tips to find the best employment attorney to meet your individual needs, and help you win in court:
1. Get Advice from Friends, Family and Coworkers
One of the best sources for the names of skilled attorneys is people you know. There’s a good chance one or more of them will have experience with an employment-related lawsuit, or know someone else who has. When you identify someone who’s filed an employment lawsuit, ask about the experience they had with the law firm and their attorney: did he take their concerns seriously, find time to meet with them when they needed help or advice, and was he upfront about expectations and fees?
2. Visit Employment Attorney Websites
Use a referral service from the State Bar website, or type “employment lawyer” plus the name of your town or city into a search engine to find websites of employment law firms in your area. Go to each of the relevant websites.
The best law firms will have websites which provide useful and detailed information—about the firm, practice areas, and current cases and investigations. The website should also provide detailed information about each of the Partners and Associates, including education and background, legal experience, practice areas and memberships. You should plan to look further into firms that provide this kind of detailed information. Those that don’t probably aren’t worth your time.
3. Schedule Consultations
After you’ve narrowed your list down to the top two or three firms, call to schedule consultations. In preparation for those meetings, you’ll need to do some homework, including research on current law as it applies to your case and gathering together all documents relevant to your case.
4. Research Current Employment Law
The best employment attorneys stay at the top of their game by reading top employment law journals and studying current case law. Research recent changes in California employment law (such as those involving the Fair Pay Act) and focus on any which are relevant to your case. In your initial consultation, ask the attorney how changes in the law might impact your case. If he doesn’t know what you’re talking about, you probably want to move on to another attorney.
5. Gather Relevant Documents
Any documents related to your claim constitute evidence in court, so it’s important to have these with you at your initial consultation. Documentation will differ depending on the nature of your case—for example, past performance reviews, letters from your employer regarding any aspect of performance, severance agreements, relevant memoranda and employment contracts will be useful in a wrongful termination lawsuit.
6. Be Proactive in Your Consultation
The best employment attorneys will want to collaborate with you every step of the way, since they understand that your contributions will be helpful to winning the case. In your initial consultation, don’t be shy about asking questions—a good attorney will welcome them—about anything that concerns you, including fees.
After he has reviewed the salient facts of your case and studied relevant documents, you should discuss strategy—how in his view should the case be handled? What are its strong and weak points? Good attorneys will be upfront and honest about the outcome you can expect in court.
7. Be Observant in Your Consultation
A strong attorney-client relationship is built on trust. That trust can only exist when each side respects the other. In your initial consultation, observe the attorney’s behavior carefully. Is he responsive to your questions? Does he seem detached, or actively engaged? Does he listen as much as he talks? Every legal relationship is different—your job is not simply to determine if the attorney you meet with is the best attorney, but also if he is the best attorney for you.
If you’ve been the victim of an employer you feel has treated you unfairly, you probably feel isolated and helpless. This is when a competent employment lawyer can provide the help you need and empower you.
Aiman-Smith & Marcy, a boutique law firm with expertise in federal and California employment law, are dedicated to helping victims. We will take your case seriously, work with you, and provide the help you need to protect your rights. If you need help and would like to discuss your case, contact us today.