Four Tips for Preparing to Speak with an Employment Lawyer
Our firm screens hundreds of potential discrimination claims each year. Often, we end up turning away cases because the potential client is unable to clearly articulate why he or she believes they have a viable discrimination claim. Based on our experience, here is a quick list of five things you can do to better articulate your case.
Understand the law. Georgia is an at-will employment state. Generally speaking, that means a Georgia employer can fire an employee for any reason so long as the firing does not violate a federal anti-discrimination law. And the federal anti-discrimination laws do not prohibit employers from treating employees badly. The “Vince Lombardi rule” applies in federal employment cases: an employer who treats everyone badly is not guilty of discriminating against anyone. Alvarez v. Royal Atlantic Developers, Inc., 610 F.3d 1253 (11th 2010). To prove a discrimination claim, you must prove that your employer treated you badly because of your age, disability, sex, race, etc. This generally involves comparing the bad treatment you received with the treatment other employees received. A little research regarding your potential claim goes a long way, and the EEOC’s website (www.eeoc.gov) is a great place to begin.
“Just the facts, m’aam.” Employment cases are emotional. In most cases, employees will have devoted years of their lives to their company, only to be cast aside under circumstances that seem unfair and unjust. While there might be plenty of reason to complain, the time to do it is not during you consultation with an employment lawyer. Your employment lawyer needs (in the words of Joe Friday) “just the facts.” Ultimately, the facts will determine the strength or weakness of your potential claim, and the more you focus on and concisely explain the facts of your claim, the greater the likelihood the employment lawyer will take your potential claim seriously.
Be organized. Before speaking with an employment lawyer, organize the facts that you believe support your claim. Write out a chronology of important events. Create a list of important witnesses. Gather and organize in chronological order the documents that support your claim. Identify comparators, e., the co-workers who you believe were treated more favorably than you. If you go through this exercise, you will be well-prepared to speak with your employment lawyer.
Do the math. Employment lawyers—particularly contingency employment lawyers—need to evaluate the potential value of your claim. That means they need to know how much you earned, how long you’ve been out of work, and what efforts you’ve made to secure other employment. Be prepared to speak about these issues. Gather payroll records, W-2’s and any other documents that will assist the employment lawyer in valuing your claim.These are just a few tips. If you follow them, we believe you will be well-equipped to speak with a much more receptive employment attorney.