An employment relationship is one of the most important relationships we experience. When a dispute arises at work, employees often have inaccurate or incomplete information. Lawyers who represent individuals in employment disputes help employees either by counseling them through an existing employment situation or, more often, assessing the individual’s rights after they have experienced some adverse employment action such as discrimination, demotion, termination and wrongful discharge, retaliation, or unlawful harassment.
There are a number of state and federal laws under which claims may exist for employees. Unlawful actions on the part of the employer include discrimination or harassment based on some protected status (for example, race, sex, age, national origin, or disability), or retaliation for having raised concerns about discrimination or harassment. Employers also may be held accountable when they violate the Family Medical Leave Act or when they do not pay wages in accordance with state and federal laws that govern overtime compensation and minimum wages. Employees who experience retaliation for raising concerns about illegal conduct on the part of their employers also may bring suit under a number of state and federal whistleblower laws.
Increasingly, employees are subject to restrictions on ability to work elsewhere either through enforcement of non-compete agreements or by employer allegations of a violation of trade secret laws. An employee needs competent and experienced counsel under these circumstances to help protect intellectual property of the employee and to assist them in lawfully transitioning to a new employment relationship.
Lawyers representing employees in this practice area often represent employees before administrative agencies, like the EEOC. However, litigation is often necessary to enforce the employee’s rights and to recover adequate damages. Litigation in this area can be very involved and intense.
This is a highly specialized area of the law, and experience representing employees is critical. A lawyer representing individuals in this type of dispute should have wide-ranging knowledge of the complexities of the various employment laws and available claims. It is also imperative that the lawyer appreciates the magnitude of the situation, both financial and emotional. Employees that seek attorneys with this experience and comprehension will benefit from sound and efficient representation in what may evolve from a claim to a costly, sensitive, and complex dispute.
Ann-Marie Ahern, Principal