Before consulting with an attorney, you should first understand employment discrimination. Employment discrimination may occur when an employee, or potential employee, is treated less favorably than other similar employees. This treatment is solely because of certain characteristics.
These characteristics or backgrounds are ones that are protected by law, and may include:
- Disability; and/or
- Other categories.
Employment discrimination can also happen when one group of employees is treated better than another group of employees. Again, this is based on protected classes or categories, which are defined by various laws. An example of this is would be if one group of workers clearly receives benefits that are denied to others on the basis of their sex.
Such discrimination commonly happens when a person is already hired. However, it can also happen when a person is still seeking employment, such as when a person isn’t hired because they are of a certain religion. Some of the more significant laws involving employment discrimination include:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: A federal anti-discrimination act making it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees on the basis of sex, race, color, religion, or national origin. It applies to both private employers as well as those in local, state, and federal governments;
- The Equal Pay Act (“EPA”): An act that protects employers against gender discrimination. Specifically, it provides that employees of different genders should be paid equally, if they are doing equal work;
- The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”): Provides protection from discrimination for employers who are aged forty years and older. It addresses specific situations, such as being forced to retire based on age;
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”): Prohibits discrimination against a person based on their disability status. It also touches on other aspects of employment, such as providing reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities;
- The Immigration Reform and Control Act (“IRCA”): Imposes various requirements on employers in connection with employees’ immigration status. An example of this would be how it addresses when and how an employer should verify the employment eligibility of workers; and
- The Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”): A federal law that governs how employees may take unpaid medical leave. Among other provisions, it provides protection against being fired while on a legitimate or approved medical leave.
If you believe you are facing employment discrimination, you should arrange for a legal consultation. A legal consultation is an initial meeting with an attorney which takes place before you decide whether to hire that attorney to represent you in your particular legal matter. The attorney will also use the consultation to determine if they can legally and competently represent you based on the information that you provide.
Note that an initial legal consultation does not mean that the attorney is officially representing you or has taken on your case. Generally, in order for an attorney to legally represent you, there must be a written representation agreement. This agreement must be signed by both you and the attorney. Otherwise, you must be able to prove that through their words or actions, the attorney consented to representing you.
What Documentation and Questions Should I Prepare Before Meeting with My Employment Discrimination Lawyer?
Before consulting with an attorney, you should ensure that you properly prepare for the consultation by gathering any and all documents that are related to your case. It is important to bring every document you have for the attorney to review; they will be able to properly determine which documents are relevant, and which are not.
Generally speaking, documents that you should bring with you may include any of the following:
- Police or accident reports;
- Property deeds or any documents relating to the property, such as an oil and gas lease;
- Employment records, such as your employment contract, employment agreements, or timesheets; or
- Other documents evidencing damages, such as medical records or expenses, or any warranties or letters created by the opposing party.
In terms of employment discrimination specifically, discrimination must be proven with sufficient evidence. This can include:
- Written evidence of the discrimination, such as any emails or other communications, company policies or handbooks, job offers and employment contracts, and other writings;
- An account of verbal communications, such as statements made in an interview or other situations;
- Documentation such as pay stubs or human resources records that might support the claim; and
- Various other types of evidence that is relevant to your situation.
Prior to the consultation, you should confirm whether the consultation itself will be free of charge. Most initial consultations are complimentary. What specifically is discussed in a legal consultation will heavily depend on your particular legal issue.
In general, some discussions that occur at a consultation include:
- Costs: An initial consultation will include a discussion of the fees that an attorney may charge in order to represent you regarding your legal dispute. Attorney fee arrangements may be based on a contingency fee, a flat fee, or hourly fee basis. It is important to discuss an attorney’s fee arrangement during the consultation, especially if cost will be a determining factor;
- Legal Claims and Facts: A consultation will always include a discussion of the legal facts and your legal claims. It is important to be honest when telling the attorney about your particular case, as lying about the facts or circumstances surrounding your case will lead to criminal sanctions or other civil penalties. Another reason to be completely honest during a legal consultation is that legal consultations will always be confidential. What this means is that what you discuss with an attorney will not be discussed outside of the meeting room. As such, you should provide the attorney with all of the information you have. Whether helpful or harmful, the attorney will need that information so that they may properly evaluate your case; and
- Experience: Some examples of this may include questions regarding the attorney’s educational background, legal field qualifications, and other such questions. An initial consultation is the best time to determine whether the attorney you are discussing your case with would be helpful, or would be the right fit for your particular case.
What Makes an Employment Discrimination Case Strong? What Makes it Weak?
Simply put, the facts of the discrimination case and the evidence available to support the case, are what makes a case strong or weak. Thus, it is important to maintain all of the evidence that may support your discrimination case. Additionally, testimony from the witnesses of the discrimination also makes a strong discrimination case. A weak discrimination case will consist of hearsay, no witnesses, and a lack of evidence.
When Do I Absolutely Need a Lawyer for an Employment Discrimination Case?
There are some different factors that might affect the outcome of an employment discrimination claim. An example of this would be if it turns out that there was some other reason an employer took action; this could affect the plaintiff’s damages award. If it turns out that the employer fired an employee due to their poor job performance, and not their race, their claim may be affected. Additionally, state laws may place limits on the amount of damages or the type of remedies involved in such cases.
As such, it is in the employee’s best interests to work with a lawyer, who can help sort out these limitations. Employment discrimination cases can be complex, and may involve many different parties.
A discrimination lawyer in your area would be best suited to handling your employment discrimination claim. Your local lawyer can help you prepare your case by informing you of how your state’s laws will affect the outcome of your case. If you must file with an agency such as the EEOC, your attorney can also guide you through that process as well.