Every day our office receives calls and online inquiries from workers seeking legal advice.  They want to know whether their boss’s actions are illegal and whether they have claims to pursue. And, if the answer to both of those questions is yes, they have to think about whether they are ready to take action to protect their rights.  But still, before even contacting an attorney they may be afraid.  They don’t know when they need an attorney, how long to wait before contacting an attorney, or even if contacting an attorney is the right choice for them.  That’s why consultations are a very important part of the practice of law.

How do I know I need an employment attorney?

If you are even asking this question the safest answer is seek a consultation.

Generally, Texas is an at-will employment state, which means employers have a lot of freedom when it comes to their hiring, firing, and treatment of employees. This also means that employees might be subject to harassment or bullying that may or may not be illegal. Consulting with an attorney early may save an employee a lot of stress associated with work if the employee is able to learn his or her rights at the first sign of trouble.

Although Texas is an at-will employment state, there are some laws that protect employees from discrimination and retaliation. Laws such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from discrimination based on race, color, national origin, gender, and religion; the Americans with Disabilities Act protects employees from discrimination based on a real or perceived disabilities; and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects employees over the age of 40 from discrimination based on age. The Texas Labor Code provides parallel protections.  Additionally, there are protections for employees under the Family and Medical Leave Act, Fair Labor Standards Act, Occupational Safety and Health Act, Texas Health and Safety Code, and various other statutes.

The internet is full of information on various laws that protect employees, but our experienced employment lawyers can listen to the specifics of what is happening to you in the workplace, navigate the laws, and advise you on your rights.

How soon should I call an employment lawyer?

The short answer – at the first sign of trouble.

Employees may feel reluctant to speak with an attorney because they hope that the problems at work will resolve themselves or they are simply afraid of sharing their problems with someone else. Unfortunately, sometimes the failure to consult with an attorney early may be detrimental to any claims an employee might have.    

First, if an employer is violating the law in their treatment of a worker, the employee may have a short time to act.  For instance, for any claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, an employee must file their claims with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 300 days.  Likewise, to preserve any similar claims under the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act (TCHRA), those claims must be filed with the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) within 180 days.  Again, these are not the only laws protecting workers. Other laws might require that an employee act even sooner, such as some of the whistleblower statutes that OSHA enforces that may require an employee to file a complaint in as little as 30 days.  Consulting with an attorney early may protect your future claims.

Second, there are times when an employee might fail to take actions (e.g., not completing necessary paperwork at work) or might take actions (e.g., quitting before knowing their rights) in the workplace that hurt their potential claim.  Consulting with an employment attorney at the first sign of trouble may be the one thing that protects your rights.

What if I am afraid and don’t want people to know I am speaking to an attorney?

It can be scary speaking with an attorney about personal matters.  But attorneys should strive to make everyone feel welcome and safe.  Consultations are an opportunity for you to speak freely and confidentially with an employment lawyer about any matters that concern you at work.

If you are experiencing problems in the workplace and want to know your rights, contact our Texas Employment Lawyers today to schedule your confidential consultation.

Email this postTweet this postLike this postShare this post on LinkedIn
Photo of Kalandra N. Wheeler Kalandra N. Wheeler

We asked Kalandra N. Wheeler, a Trial Attorney in the Houston office of Wiley Wheeler, P.C., to provide her sincere answers to a range of questions.  After reading, you will be more more abreast with the understanding and competency that Ms. Wheeler

We asked Kalandra N. Wheeler, a Trial Attorney in the Houston office of Wiley Wheeler, P.C., to provide her sincere answers to a range of questions.  After reading, you will be more more abreast with the understanding and competency that Ms. Wheeler brings.

1.Why did you start practicing labor and employment law?

I wanted to be able to help people that otherwise might not find help. Labor and employment laws affect most of society.  And – whether our results help one or many – our work and efforts as employment lawyers touch people in a real way in their every day lives.

2. Who is your favorite Supreme Court Justice?

Thurgood Marshall.

3. What do you think is the most important part of a good case?

The client. Good facts and evidence are definitely important. But good clients are a lawyers’ most valuable asset.  A good client: (1) is invested in their case; (2) works or worked hard for their employer; (3) can tell their story clearly and concisely; and (4) is someone that a jury will find sympathetic and relatable.

4. If you could write a new law, what would it do?

The Texas Workplace Anti-Bullying law.  I hear the stories, the ones told by employees looking for help. And in far too many of those stories the law offers no solution.  Every employee that goes to work and works hard to do the job they are hired to perform should be able to do so without abuse, harassment, and bullying. There is no justification for bullying, not in our schools, and not in our workplaces.

5. Besides Rob Wiley, P.C., what is the most interesting job that you have had?

For a year before law school, I worked as a lube tech for Jiffy Lube.  I spent hot summer days, working on hot cars, changing oil or flushing transmissions or radiators.  I never had a customer come back with a complaint.

6. How do you market yourself differently than others?

I tell clients what they need to hear, not necessarily what they want to hear. Before a client begins down any path toward resolving an employment dispute, they need thoughtful, honest advice. I am a believer in justice and everyday people deserve competent representation in an arena that is difficult for non-lawyers to navigate.

7. What do you do when you’re not practicing law?

I spend time with family and friends.  I read true crime books.  I sew and draw.

8. How would you describe the color yellow to someone who could not see?

It’s not the intense heat of the sun during the month of August, but instead the softness of the sun on your skin just as the seasons change from Summer to Fall.  It’s warm. And soft to the touch.  It’s fresh squeezed lemonade with a hint of sugar.  Slightly cool, inviting, and happy.

9. What’s your favorite legal TV show?

Law & Order: SVU

10. If you could argue any case in history, what would it be?

The Karen Silkwood case. But really, I think that would be more about arguing and trying a case alongside Gerry Spence for the learning experience.

Kalandra N. Wheeler is a Trial Attorney in the Houston office of Wiley Wheeler, P.C.  She graduated from The University of Houston with a bachelor’s degree in political science.  Ms. Wheeler went on and received her law degree from The University of Arkansas.