Monthly Archives: February 2014

Considering Legal Action? Don’t Let Worries About Travel Stop You

When people tell me about their legal concerns, some say they are worried if they take legal action against an employer, especially one who is in a different location from them, they will have to travel too much during the course of the legal action.

In reality, rarely does a party have to travel to pursue their rights.  I can count on one hand the types of events that might require a party to travel.  Those events (which only could arise after a legal complaint is filed) are:

  • a deposition (which could be required in person, but can be conducted via phone if agreed);
  • mediation (a settlement conference which sometimes is mandatory, and sometimes a mandatory mediation requires in-person attendance); and
  • trial.

More often than not, cases are resolved before any of the events above occur, so the party never needs to travel.  Most of the clients I have represented have not traveled at all by the time their cases resolved.  Most of my clients’ cases have resolved via settlements (contracts agreeing to financial terms, closing of the legal matters, etc.).  Settlement is often a better option than litigating through trial or thereafter.

So even those matters that involve lawsuits that are filed and pursued for months or years will usually only involve one to two instances of travel at most. When a given client of mine is scheduled for a deposition or mediation that is outside my client’s area, I explore if alternatives not involving travel are possible, such as a phone appearance.  Also, if a client of mine is outside of the United States and has concerns about being able to enter or re-enter the country to pursue legal rights, there are usually options available to resolve those concerns (e.g. phone appearances, visas for legal matters, etc.).

The bottom line is you should not assume frequent travel, or any travel, will be required if you retain an attorney and explore legal options.  The attorney will discuss with you what events, if any, are likely to occur that could require travel. You should not let assumptions or fears about travel stop you from exploring your possible legal rights or legal action.

Leave a comment

Filed under Considering Legal Action - Employee

Is Your Employment at Will? Don’t Assume You Have No Legal Rights

Employment at will is the general concept that an employer can fire an employee for most reasons.  You have probably heard about the general rule of employment at will, and how it allows employers to conduct many types of job terminations and unfair actions.

But if you have at-will employment, you should not assume you have no legal rights.  As I have described in this article, there are exceptions to employment at will where broad categories of at-will workers do have potentially strong legal claims for diverse employment situations.  Also, upon closer examination, those categories of legal rights (described on a high level in that article) consist of a substantial number of legal claims.  For example, legal rights generally labeled as “discrimination” and “whistleblower retaliation” rights encompass thousands of distinct legal claims, the applicability of which depend on the particular situations, Federal and State laws involved, etc.

Given the vast possible legal claims out there, the employment at will concept should not cause you to make definitive assumptions or decisions.  With that said, if the concept has given you a sense of skepticism that makes you want to learn more before taking legal action, that’s a good thing.

It is an important decision whether you take legal action or not.  So important that, in my view, it warrants you have an attorney evaluate your matter before you act on your assumptions.  As mentioned, some workers don’t explore valid legal rights because they wrongly assume employment at will bars those rights.  On the flip side, some workers assume they do have strong legal rights when they don’t, and rush ahead and file legal claims (e.g. discrimination claims they file without an attorney’s assistance).

My bottom-line suggestion is this: if you are not an employment law attorney, then do not diagnose your own legal claims or lack thereof.  If you consult with a competent employment attorney, and he or she gives you an evaluation whether you have a viable claim, then that is a sound basis upon which to base your actions or inaction.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Hit a Grand Slam Sale, And Thrown a Lowball Commission? Don’t Get Beaned.

ImageAs an attorney who practices in contractor rights and worker rights issues, I encounter many different underpayment scenarios.  While all income theft is troubling, it’s particularly tough to encounter those folks who are made victims of their own success.  Namely, it’s hard to see a commissioned worker or contractor make a huge sale — earning them a fixed (and large) commission under a contract or commission plan– and at that point, the benefiting company tries to change the deal.  It’s as if you can see the wheels turning in the company rep’s mind right after the sale: “I didn’t know you’d make that kind of sale, and a 10% commission could be that much.  I think I’ll throw the company’s weight around, and get you to accept something less so I get more.”

If you find yourself in this situation, you’ll certainly feel great pressure.  The pressure of wanting to keep what you rightfully earned, versus the pressure of not wanting to lose your entire job or contract if the company you’re dealing with is willing to go to serious lengths in throwing its weight around.  This article proposes factors to consider if you find yourself in this situation.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Should You Get a Local Attorney?

Local Article PhotoIf you’re looking for an attorney to help with a legal dispute, you may have asked yourself: “Should I get an attorney located near me?” Or you may have assumed that you should get a local attorney, without even considering it an option to retain an attorney outside your city or state. While it’s good to ask questions, and good to review whether or not a local attorney is the best option, you should not assume a local attorney is the only option.

In actuality, lawyers (including employee rights attorneys) can and do represent clients in different states, in many circumstances and cases.  Lawyers in the U.S. are generally licensed to handle Federal-law matters all across the U.S. Many employment-law claims are Federal claims, including many important claims relating to job terminations and pay.

I personally handle Federal- law matters in numerous states. I commonly represent clients located in states other than my mine (Wisconsin) and even in other countries.  Those clients retained me because I have experience with legal issues at hand.  For most clients and cases, the quality of legal work– wherever it is performed– is the most important issue.

Of note, nearly all legal work is remote: the vast majority of legal work is done via a computer, phone, and mailed or electronically- transmitted documents.  Even clients who live very close to my office will only occasionally (at most) meet in person with me, with some clients– near and far– choosing not to meet with me at all.  I definitely understand people who are more comfortable meeting in person, and I have meetings on request whenever feasible. But that is because a given client and I decide to meet in person, not because we must do so.

With that said, there are some types of matters where an attorney’s location and/or licensure can be very important to a matter.  For example, some issues are highly focused within a particular state’s law or legal proceedings, in which case it may be important to work with an attorney licensed and/or physically located in that state.  Some of my Federal cases involve secondary state- law issues and I work along with co-counsel attorneys located or licensed in the pertinent states.  However, many cases do not require or need this type of work-sharing. Also, some state courts and state forums readily accept out-of-state attorneys to work within those forums.

Any employee rights attorney who you contact, wherever he or she is located, should be able to tell you whether he or she can assist with your matter or not.  The key is to contact the attorney you most want to contact (wherever he or she is located), and to ask all the questions you want answered, including whether local counsel is necessary for your particular issues.  If you feel a particular attorney can help you with your specific issues, don’t assume location is a barrier, at least for your first call.

In my view, there are three better questions than “Should I get a local attorney?”  Those are:

(1) Does a particular lawyer you’ve learned about appear to be able to help you with your concerns?

(2) If you’ve called that lawyer, has the lawyer explained to your satisfaction whether his or her location could present any limitations to representing you?

(3) If the lawyer explained how and why he or she could help you, do the potential benefits of representation outweigh any potential limitations?

Asking these questions should give you the information you need to choose an attorney and weigh the pros and cons (if any) of a non-local attorney representing you.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized