Client shaking hands with employment lawyer

When Should You Talk to an Employment Lawyer?

By Douglas Lipsky

Most employers in New York City treat their workers fairly when setting and implementing policies and procedures and enforcing rules. But what can you do when you believe an employer has violated their rights? That’s the time to talk to an experienced employment lawyer

Federal, state, and city employment laws are complex. So, it takes a skilled employment lawyer who knows these laws inside and out to protect your rights. Knowing your employment rights and when you need to seek legal counsel will help protect your livelihood and reputation.

Times When You Need An Employment Lawyer

Consulting an employment lawyer can be helpful at any point in the employment relationship, including:

Signing Legal Documents and Agreements

An employer may ask you to sign several documents before starting work or during your employment, including:

  • An employment agreement to outline your obligations and responsibilities, compensation, paid time off, fringe benefits, time-keeping, and disciplinary measures for policy violations, including termination.
  • A nondisclosure agreement to prohibit you from disclosing the employer’s confidential business information, client lists, processes, and trade secrets.
  • A non-compete agreement to prohibit you from taking a position with a competitor or starting a competing business when your employment ends.

These agreements will contain complicated legal terminology you may not understand, but you may feel pressured to sign them out of fear of losing the job opportunity. However, you can have an employment lawyer review them beforehand to help you understand what you’re signing and protect your rights. 

Employment Discrimination/Retaliation

Discrimination persists in many workplaces even though it is illegal. Your employer cannot discriminate against you based on race, gender, age, religion, disability, sexual orientation, and other legally protected characteristics when making employment decisions (e.g. hiring, compensating, promoting, and firing). 

Also, your employer cannot legally retaliate against you for complaining about or reporting discrimination. Retaliation may involve being disciplined, reassigned, demoted, harassed, or terminated. Suing your employer for discrimination or retaliation is challenging. So it is essential to consult an experienced employment lawyer who can guide you through the process. 

Wrongful Termination

New York is an at-will employment state: you can be fired any time, with or without cause (at-will employment does not apply to fast-food workers in New York City). However, termination cannot be based on an unlawful or discriminatory reason. If you suspect you were fired because of your protected status or in retaliation for exercising your legal rights, having an employment lawyer at your side is essential.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is an unlawful form of sex-based discrimination. Harassment may involve unwanted sexual advances by a supervisor or offensive comments by anyone in the workplace that create an abusive or hostile work environment. Under New York law, the harassment needs to be “severe or pervasive” (the standard under federal law) for you to have a valid claim. You can protect your rights and may even prevent others from experiencing similar mistreatment by talking to an employment lawyer. 

Wage Theft

An employer must pay their workers a minimum wage, and eligible employees are entitled to overtime pay for all hours over 40 per week. Many employees are also entitled to some form of paid sick leave. If your employer has failed to pay you earned wages, you may have a valid wage and hour claim.

Whistleblower Retaliation

Your employer cannot retaliate against you for reporting allegations of illegal activities or safety violations to a regulatory agency (whistleblowing). Being a whistleblower takes courage, and it takes an experienced employment lawyer to protect your rights. 

The Bottom Line

Employers have the upper hand when making employment decisions, but employees have rights. If your employer has violated your rights, talk to an experienced employment lawyer today.

About the Author
Douglas Lipsky is a co-founding partner of Lipsky Lowe LLP. He has extensive experience in all areas of employment law, including discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, wrongful discharge, breach of contract, unpaid overtime, and unpaid tips. He also represents clients in complex wage and hour claims, including collective actions under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and class actions under the laws of many different states. If you have questions about this article, contact Douglas today.