It’s common to encounter problems at work, and sometimes, these problems do require assistance from a legal professional. It’s important to help our readers understand in which types of employment situations they could benefit from legal guidance.
So when exactly should you contact an employment attorney for a work-related problem?
Here are a few examples:
- Your boss has “favorites” in the company, and this favoritism is clearly based on a characteristic like race, gender, or sexual orientation.
- Favoritism in the workplace isn’t considered unlawful unless it is based on a personal characteristic protected under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or another discrimination statute.
- If your boss does not follow state or federal employment laws. These types of laws are intended to promote safety and fairness in the workplace, and businesses cannot break these laws. For example, if your boss asks you to work through your lunch without pay, this may justify legal action.
- You aren’t paid the wages to which you are legally entitled. This can be tricky to determine, especially in a business where employees hold different positions and make different salaries. However, the following would likely constitute illegal wage-related practices in many circumstances:
- You’re an hourly employee and you work more than 40 hours in one week, but your employer fails to pay you the appropriate overtime pay (which is usually time-and-a-half, if not more).
- You find out a coworker makes more money than you do, even though you have the same positions, the same qualifications, and do the same work, and you believe the reason for this discrepancy is related to your race, gender, religion, etc.
- Your employer withholds your wages (or is unable to pay your wages) without a legal reason for doing so.
- You have seen some sort of wrongdoing in your workplace—or experienced it yourself—and encountered retaliation when you spoke up. This is one of the most common types of workplace problems today. A National Business Ethics Survey found that 45% of working Americans had seen or experienced wrongdoing at their jobs at least once before, but 46% of these individuals did not speak up because they feared retaliation. This fear isn’t unfounded: over 20% of individuals did speak up—and they experienced retaliation because of it. This “wrongdoing” can describe a variety of different workplace problems:
- You’ve been terminated for an unlawful reason. Employers have the legal right to fire employees at any time and for almost any reason, as long as the reason is not an illegal reason. If, for example, you can prove your employer fired you because of a personal characteristic, such as your race or religion, you may have a claim for wrongful termination.
- These principles also apply to job actions other than termination. For example, the same reasoning applies to a situation where a potential job candidate is refused the position because of his/her race, or a situation where a current employee is treated differently (meaning unfairly) because of his/her religion.
Are there cases where it isn’t wise to involve an employment attorney?
In some cases, having an attorney sue or even contact your employer may not be in your best interest. However, if you are uncertain about your legal rights and how to defend them, an employment law attorney can help you determine what is best for you and your situation. The following are reasons you may not want to involve an attorney in your situation, even after you seek legal advice concerning the matter:
- Your lawsuit might take too much time or cost you too much money to be worth it;
- You want to ensure you retain professional ties to the business and/or to your coworkers;
- You believe your professional reputation would be damaged too much (and you aren’t willing to take that risk);
- Your particular situation involves something unfair, but not necessarily unlawful.
Here are a few examples of when an attorney might advise it would not be beneficial to involve legal counsel in your workplace dispute:
- Your boss isn’t nice to you or your co-workers. As long as your boss isn’t acting illegally (e.g., harassing you, abusing you, or discriminating against you based on an illegal characteristic), there’s no law in Ohio requiring your employer to be nice.
- Your boss has “favorites,” and you aren’t one of them. This is likely legal too, as long as these “favorites” aren’t defined by specific characteristics like race, age, gender, disability, or other categories protected by state and federal law.
- Your coworker makes an offensive joke without realizing it upset you. If this person continues to make offensive jokes, knowing you are offended, or if you talk to your employer and he/she does nothing about it, you might have a case. If you talk to your co-worker and/or your employer and ask that the joke not be made again, and if the co-worker honors your request, the matter may be considered settled. If you haven’t complained of the conduct, it is probably not a good idea to jump straight to a lawsuit. However, a consultation with an employment lawyer may help you determine how to report the conduct and what your rights may be if the conduct does not stop.
- Your employer fires you for a reason you believe is unfair. Businesses can’t fire employees for illegal reasons such as being pregnant or practicing a particular religion, but your employer technically has the right to fire any employee at any time. As long as the termination isn’t based on a discriminatory factor, it is likely legal.
- You’re passed over for a promotion. If you believe this has happened because of a personal characteristic, such as your age or your gender, you might have grounds for a lawsuit. However, claiming that your boss “just doesn’t like or respect you” isn’t typically a solid foundation for a discrimination case.
Employment Attorneys for Cincinnati, Ohio
Before contacting an employment attorney, it may be helpful to think about whether your specific situation could potentially be grounds for a lawsuit. Click here to learn about different employment situations that could enable you to take legal action.
If you are still not sure whether legal action is the best choice for your own situation, contact the Cincinnati employment attorneys today at Robert A. Klingler Co., L.P.A. If we believe taking legal action would not be in your best interest, we’ll help you understand why and we’ll suggest alternatives better suited for your unique situation. If we believe taking legal action could be a good direction for you, our team of professional employment lawyers will walk you through the next steps.