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 employment attorneys today to schedule your confidential consultation.