As an employment law attorney, Jay Rothman has seen many labor laws in actual cases. There are a lot of labor law protections for employees, and for the most part, companies tend to follow them. However, occasionally there is abuse, and then it depends on whether the employee is one of the many who just hears about the issue and watches from the sidelines or is the victim actually experiencing the problem. Unfortunately, unlike other types of law, labor law representation doesn’t usually work on contingency payment (i.e., a percentage of the case winnings). Unlike a personal injury case, a labor law case has to be paid upfront for the attorney’s work, a prohibitive fence for most people to climb. After all, the market rate for an attorney on an hourly charge is close to $600/hour or more these days. Not many can afford that kind of service for very long.
Instead, Jay Rothman has seen that many employees have to rely on three types of protection: internal offices, external fair employment government regulatory agencies, and pro bono or non-profit groups seeking to push a more significant legal change than just one case. In the case of internal offices, most companies have some kind of an EEO officer or HR office, but company personnel is in place to protect the company as a whole. So, while they might discipline the given manager or employee causing the problem, they might also remove both involved to protect the organization.
The second choice, the external regulatory agency, tends to be causation specific. External agencies frequently work on specific major topics, like employment discrimination. Jay Rothman points out they will take on cases that meet their desired definition, but they often avoid other mixed or not on-topic cases.
Finally, non-profit or pro bono legal help is usually available to give basic guidance, help people understand their rights, and steer them in the direction of how they assert their rights through communication or alternatives. Jay Rothman has seen from experience that most of these resources typically need to be staffed or funded to take on big, long labor cases that cost significant funds to see to trial.
In practice, the best thing an employee can do to assert labor law protection is first to understand what the law actually provides. Jay Rothman suggests if a person can then leverage the direct help noted above, take advantage of it. If not, then it’s time to play poker. Companies don’t like the idea of expensive lawsuits. So, less costly solutions are oftentimes favored. If you can get the company to pay for an early severance, avoid bad references or allow a simple separation, that may very well be the better path. The average employee with an issue in one company still needs to work, so that means going out and finding a job elsewhere. It’s going to be very hard with a long-term prior employer bad-mouthing one’s previous work record. Jay Rothman notes settlements can frequently work towards a win-win, with the employee finding a job elsewhere without trouble and the former employer no longer having to deal with the case or potential claim.