August 2, 2023
As an HR professional, the prospect of seeking help from an employment litigation attorney can feel daunting and overwhelming. But talking to an attorney is much more straightforward than you might think, and doing so can prove invaluable in protecting the interests of your business.
You may be unsure of when it’s time to speak to an employment litigation attorney. Take a look at these common situations where seeking legal guidance is essential for businesses in California.
Five Signs You Should Contact an Employment Litigation Attorney
It is always wise to consult with an attorney if you are unsure about any given situation. Not only can you benefit from the peace of mind, but you can also save money and hassle in the long run by ensuring a situation doesn’t become more serious and require more extensive litigation later.
However, there are certain situations where calling an employment litigation attorney is both prudent and vital.
Here are five of them:
1. You Have Been Served With Legal Papers
If you get served with a complaint or a lawsuit by another party, then you are already caught up in the early stages of litigation. It is important to connect with an employment litigation attorney immediately in this case so that an appropriate and timely response can be made.
Ensuring a qualified attorney promptly handles your response can help you avoid several potential negative consequences. For example, failing to respond to the lawsuit within the time allowed by law can lead to a default judgment against your company, costing you considerable money and your reputation.
Responding to the suit but not contesting the pertinent matters can likewise negatively affect your chances of succeeding in the suit. And settling the matter too quickly or on unfavorable terms can place your business at a disadvantage.
For these and other reasons, if you are served with papers in California, your first call should be to an employment litigation attorney.
2. You Need to Fire a Risky Employee
Most managers do not enjoy terminating employees. There can be numerous reasons why an employee may need to be let go, however. Some of these employees are more challenging to terminate than others and present a greater risk of future litigation if their termination is not handled appropriately. This includes situations where:
- The employee has made accusations or complaints against managers
- The employee is suspected of stealing from the company or engaging in other criminal conduct
- You have concerns that the employee might become violent or retaliate against you or your business
- The employee is in possession of confidential information or trade secrets
Planning ahead when terminating these employees can help prevent a costly wrongful termination lawsuit, saving you and your business time and money.
3. You Are Notified of a Complaint Alleging Discrimination
A host of federal and state laws protect certain classes of individuals from discrimination or adverse employment actions. These laws include the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Civil Rights Act.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the state’s Civil Rights Department enforce these and other laws. If you know or suspect that an employee has reached out to these agencies and filed a complaint alleging unlawful discrimination, you will want to turn to an employment litigation attorney for help on what to do.
Not all of these complaints will end up in a courtroom, but that does not mean they should not be taken seriously.
Responding to these complaints can be time-consuming and labor-intensive, but doing so accurately and with evidence is essential to avoid having even more cumbersome penalties or restrictions placed upon you and your business operations.
4. A Pending Decision Will Have Company-Wide Ramifications
The decisions you make daily as an HR professional impact the lives of your workers. From approving an employee’s request for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act to deciding not to give a raise to an employee because of that employee’s substandard performance, you are accustomed to making decisions that are not always popular.
But when your decision will affect a large portion of your workforce, it is worth consulting with an employment litigation lawyer before proceeding. These large-scale decisions can include eliminating an entire department, laying off large numbers of employees, or reducing the benefits you will provide.
Decisions such as these can cause widespread disgruntlement and may lead to an organized response. An attorney can help lessen the risk of potential trouble.
5. It Is Time to Update or Create Contracts and Agreements
Courts may disregard employment contracts or non-compete agreements if they are insufficient under state and federal law. You do not want the courtroom to be the place where you learn of these forms’ and documents’ deficiencies.
A little investment in having an employment litigation attorney create or update your business’s employee policy handbook, employment contracts, or other documents can save you from having to pay significantly more in litigation costs later.
How to Approach an Employment Litigation Attorney
Sometimes the most difficult part of speaking to an employment litigation attorney is making the initial call. You may be concerned about what to say, how to convey information, or what the employment litigation attorney might think of your situation.
While these concerns may be legitimate, you don’t want to let them keep you from reaching out for help when needed. Consider preparing to talk to your lawyer by making a summary of the situation you are facing so that you can relay facts quickly. Make sure to give yourself an adequate amount of time to meet with the lawyer.
You will also want to provide the attorney with copies of any relevant documents to review ahead of time. This can save both you and your attorney valuable time.
While your initial impression might be to avoid speaking with an attorney before you absolutely have to, you will find that reaching out for experienced legal help early can save you considerable worry and expense later on.