What Kind of Lawyer Do I Need for Work Issues? - September 2021

If you are having work issues, you may need to consult a lawyer for assistance. But which kind of lawyer do you need? Lawyers focus on many different areas of law in their practices. Some lawyers practice several different areas of law at the same time. It can be difficult to determine who you should speak to. For many work issues, such as discrimination or harassment, you should speak to an employment lawyer.

What Is an Employment Lawyer?

An employment lawyer handles cases involving employment and labor laws. Some employment lawyers represent employees, some represent businesses, and some represent both. Our firm represents only employees.

An employment lawyer who represents employees focuses on advocating for employee rights in the workplace. There are many different laws that protect employees from the unfair or discriminatory actions of employers, supervisors, and coworkers.

Often, employees who are being treated unfairly need the help of an employment attorney to protect their rights. Employment lawyers, if they are able to “take the case” can discuss possible courses of action to address any violations of employment or labor laws. Note that “labor laws” deal specifically with union-related issues and maybe separate and apart from your employer issues, but they may still also overlap. Different attorneys may handle different labor and employment laws and claims.

What Is the Difference Between Employment Laws and Workers’ Comp Laws?

You may have heard that a workers’ compensation lawyer also represents employees with work issues. But it’s important to clear up the difference between employment law and workers' compensation (often called workers’ comp). Under Workers’ Comp., employers in New York must pay for workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ compensation attorneys help employees receive payments from their employer’s insurance company if they are injured at work or suffer damages due to an employer’s negligence. The payments generally cover the cost of medical care and time off work due to the injury. But you may need an employment attorney if you are discriminated against because you are now injured or need time off from work.

In contrast, employment lawyers handle other kinds of work issues besides injuries at work. For example, employment lawyers may handle cases involving:

  • Discrimination because of race, national origin, sex or gender, religion, criminal conviction, pregnancy, and more
  • Sexual harassment
  • Retaliation and/or wrongful termination for engaging in protected activities such as complaining of discrimination
  • ARTICLE: September Newsletter DATE: June 16, 2021
  • WRITER: Julia Damron CLIENT: Phillips, Bill
  • TITLE: What kind of lawyer do I need for work issues?
  • Minimum wage violations
  • Overtime pay violations
  • EEOC charges of discrimination
  • Cases before the New York Division of Human Rights
  • Arbitration cases
  • Negotiation of severance agreements

Employment law cases tend to involve overlapping city, state and federal laws, and sometimes, several different legal claims. For that reason, it’s important to find an experienced lawyer in your area to represent you.

Which Kinds of Work Issues Are Illegal?

Unfortunately, employers may take a variety of actions that violate employment. One major work issue that employees may experience is being treated differently because they fall into a protected class. These protected classes include race, national origin, sex or gender, religion, criminal conviction, pregnancy, and more. If you are treated differently because you belong to one of these groups, you may be experiencing discrimination that violates employment laws.

Another issue that employees, unfortunately, experience is sexual harassment at work. For example, an employee might be the target of offensive sexual comments or unwelcome advances by a supervisor or coworker. Or a supervisor might ask for sexual favors from an employee in exchange for favorable treatment, such as getting a promotion or not being laid off.

Employees who deal with discrimination and harassment, or who observe it in their workplaces, also may deal with retaliation or wrongful termination. Retaliation and wrongful termination of employees who engaged in protected activities, such as complaining about harassment or assisting with a workplace investigation of discrimination, violates the law. In addition, employees also may face other types of legal violations such as improper withholding of overtime pay or failure to pay minimum wage.

Which Kinds of Work Issues Are Not Illegal?

While there are many employment and labor laws that protect employees, not all work issues are illegal. Workers often face difficulties at work due to problems with communication or personality conflicts. These situations may be unpleasant and frustrating, but typically they are not illegal. To be illegal, a workplace issue must violate an employment law, such as the New York State Human Rights Law or Title VII of the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, among others.

For example, illegal discrimination occurs if the targeted employee is a member of a protected class as listed above, and the employee is treated differently based on membership in the class. However, sometimes it is difficult to determine if an employer's actions violate the law. Discrimination and harassment can be subtle but still affect employees’ work environment – even if they are not the ones being directly discriminated against or harassed. Employees may need an employment lawyer’s help to assess their options if they believe that discrimination or another violation of the law is occurring.

Finding an Employment Lawyer

If you are having work issues, employment lawyers who represent employees can help you address your situation. Don’t worry if you’re a part-time employee, seasonal worker, or intern. You may be covered by employment laws prohibiting discrimination, harassment, and wage violations even though you are not a full-time or salaried employee.

Remember, employment lawyers are the right kind of lawyer to handle your work issues should they rise to the level of violations of the law. You’ll want a lawyer who deeply understands the many overlapping employment laws that could apply to your situation. (Keep in mind that if you were injured at work, you may need to speak to a workers’ compensation lawyer as well.) Many companies hire large law firms with many years of experience to represent them in employment cases. Employees can’t risk being outmatched because they are overwhelmed by big firm legal tactics. Protecting your legal rights as an employee is too important.

If you’re facing harassment or discrimination at work, reach out to the experienced employment attorneys at Phillips & Associates. Our team takes pride in only representing employees and going toe to toe with other large firms. You won’t be outgunned by the big firm your employer hires to defend itself. For a free consultation, call the experienced New York discrimination and wrongful termination attorneys at Phillips & Associates today at (866) 229-9441.

At Phillips & Associates- We Level the Playing Field

Employees were, and for the most part still are, at a big disadvantage in the workplace. There is a dramatic power imbalance between employees and the companies for which they work. This power balance can intensify after experiencing sexual harassment or discrimination. The company/employer often hires a large law firm to represent it, while the employee may have just lost their job, have very little money and no one to help them understand their rights. At Phillips & Associates, we have the experience, staffing, and financial backing to keep the playing field level. People need to take a close look at the lawyer or law firm they want to hire and determine if that lawyer or firm has the funds, experience and the resources to properly litigate their case.

Phillips & Associates, one of the largest plaintiffs’ only employment law firms in New York. The firm handles cases involving sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace including pregnancy, race, disability, religion, gender, and sexual orientation, and other protected traits. Phillips & Associates also handles other areas of harassment at work such as retaliation and wrongful termination. Most recently Phillips & Associates was selected as one of the “10 Best Employment & Labor Law Firms in New York” by the American Institute of Legal Counsel.

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