Do I Need a Labor Lawyer?

Unions and employers often retain the services of labor lawyers

By Tim Kelly, J.D. | Last updated on January 26, 2023

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Labor lawyers are an essential component of employment law. These practitioners are similar to employment attorneys but are well-versed in the rules and the procedures around labor unions. They can be a valuable resource for both employees and employers, as they advise both sides on best practices and policies. A good labor lawyer provides sound legal advice while steering events toward a satisfying resolution for their client. Unions are subject to state and federal laws, so it’s vital to work with labor lawyers who operate in your specific location.

What Is Labor Law?

Labor unions are organizations of workers seeking to further their rights in a particular profession. Labor unions are common in the education, steel, and automotive industries. These associations are governed by state and federal laws such as the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The NLRA protects workers’ rights to organize while also maintaining that workers have the right to seek a representative in their collective bargaining with employers. When employment disputes and legal issues arise in the workplace, having a competent attorney in reach is often the best course of action. When unions are involved, you will want to seek the legal advice of a labor attorney. Here are some common instances when employers and employees should enlist the services of labor lawyers:
  • Worker mistreatment. This essentially means that a worker or workers have been mistreated in the workplace, and now a lawsuit is looming. Employees that belong to a labor union are encouraged to come forward with issues of employee rights violations and employment discrimination. Labor unions and attorneys will also investigate if such mistreatment is isolated or part of a pattern involving multiple union workers. Finally, even if the mistreatment comes from a coworker, the employer can still be liable for fostering an unsafe working environment.
  • Wrongful termination. Employment contracts can make terminating an employee difficult. Whenever an employer has cause to terminate a union worker, it’s wise to first speak with a labor attorney who can advise on best practices for avoiding a wrongful termination lawsuit. Likewise, employees that feel their termination violates state or federal laws are encouraged to speak with their union representatives and seek legal representation.
  • Strike. Suppose your organization has decided to go on strike. In that case, the union will require the services of an attorney to negotiate with the employer during the strike.

Education of a Labor Lawyer

Before they can handle employment law cases and practice at a law firm, labor lawyers must receive quite a bit of schooling. This means earning a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university before enrolling in law school and obtaining a law degree, known as a juris doctor. Law students embarking on a legal career are trained in performing legal research and educated in various practice areas. Upon earning their doctorate, they are only allowed to practice law once they pass a competency exam and are admitted to a state bar.

Setting Up a Free Consultation

If you anticipate suing or being sued in the future, it’s always good to sit down with an attorney to discuss options and the next steps. Legal help can be found in any number of ways, typically through searching bar associations and lawyer referral services. Many law firms and attorneys offer free initial consultations where the attorney can hear the facts of the case and the client can ask questions and determine whether to enlist the attorney’s services.

Questions for a Labor Attorney

The best way to decide whether an attorney’s legal services are the right fit is by asking informed questions. Here are some good questions to ask during your initial conversations:
  • What protections or legal rights am I entitled to as a worker?
  • Can independent contractors join labor unions?
  • Can an employer ask about my religion, sexual orientation, national origin, or membership in labor unions?
  • Which government agency or agencies regulate my profession?
  • What is your fee structure?
  • Can I join a class action against my employer if I have been subject to similar mistreatment?
  • Can I recoup unpaid wages in my employment lawsuit?
  • Why did you choose this area of law?
  • Is my case a candidate for alternative forms of dispute resolution such as arbitration or mediation?

Finding the Right Attorney For Your Needs

It is essential to approach the right type of attorney—someone who can help you through your entire case. To do so, you can visit the Super Lawyers directory and use the search box to find a lawyer based on your legal issue or location. To help you get started, you may want to consider looking for a lawyer who practices employment and labor law.

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