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When Do I Need an Employment Attorney?

Illinois business owners should be proactive

If you own a business with employees, or are contemplating adding more employees to your established business, you should probably have already reached out to an attorney.

“Labor and employment is a very unique practice area of the law, because on top of the generalized employment litigation, we spend a decent amount of time counseling companies with their concerns to prevent legal issues from arising, says Illinois attorney Erinn Rigney. “Business owners should be just as proactive in preventing issues through policy and trainings, as well as actively addressing any legal action that comes up.”

Any time you are considering making a change in someone’s employment status, benefits or policies, there are regulations that come into play. Practically speaking, it is important before implementing a new policy—or, even beginning a business—that you consider all of the intricacies of employment law. “There are many federal laws as well as state laws that can sometime trip companies up,” says Rigney.

Be certain to contact a law firm with a reputable and experienced employment lawyer for legal advice about employment issues or if you have an employee handbook or a vacation policy, or to ensure you are compliant with wage and hour laws on both the state and federal level. You want to make sure that you’re engaging in these procedures within full compliance with all labor laws.

Rigney notes that you’ll further want to contact an employment attorney for legal help if you’ve received a communication from a plaintiff’s lawyer. Or, she says, “you are notified of workplace discrimination or wrongful termination charges being brought against you or your business. Charges can include discrimination from a federal agency or any other employment lawsuits that names you or your business as a defendant.” This is perhaps the most obvious time to call an attorney for help. Hopefully, if this happens, you will have already met and begun a client relationship with an attorney who knows your business inside and out.

One of the biggest concerns for business owners in an employment dispute is cost. And unfortunately, what a dispute is going to cost is extremely difficult to estimate. “There is no one size-fits-all approach to employment cases,” says Rigney. “Sometimes it is informal discussions between the parties, or mediation, or sometimes a judge is needed and the full court process begins. It is always … specific on how many individuals, the type of issues involved and many other factors that determine the best course of action.”

Normally, when one party sues another party, they resolve the issue and go their separate ways. In an employment dispute, however, the opposite is often true: The parties would like to resolve a conflict and continue to work together. “This is probably the most human area of the law,” says Rigney. “People spend a lot of time at work; often times, a job is a very defining characteristic of a person. Understanding that, and helping to resolve workplace issues and proactively prevent issues from arising can really change people’s lives.”

For more information about this area, see our overview on employment law for employers.

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