Finding an employment lawyer is not always an easy task for Colorado workers. You probably know enough people that have had a divorce or traffic ticket that you could find a referral for a divorce lawyer or criminal defense lawyer without much work; however, you probably know fewer people who hired Colorado employment law attorneys at some point in their career. Often employees do not know much about employment law or where to even begin finding an employment lawyer in Colorado. Today’s post will help demystify some of these issues.
What is employment law and how does it differ from labor law?
There is plenty of confusion to go around about what labor law means and what employment law means. The short answer is that there is no meaningful difference to worry about. Often you will see even legal resources refer to the two as a combined “labor and employment law”. Many attorneys who do not practice in these areas likely could not even tell you a difference. Labor law and employment law both relate to the employee-employer relationship although they deal with the relationship in different ways.
Generally what we call employment law deals with an individual employee to employer relationship. These cover medical leave laws, employment discrimination, wrongful termination, unpaid wages or overtime and issues involving individual employment contracts. Even in workplace situations involving multiple workers you could isolate each individual’s relationship with the employer. From there you can determine whether violations of employment law occurred.
Common employment law claims in Colorado include:
- Employment discrimination
- Unpaid wages
- Overtime pay
- Hostile work environment/harassment
- Wrongful termination
- Family and medical leave issues
On the other hand, labor law deals with the relationship between the employees as a collective workforce and the employer. Labor law protects the right of individual employees to come together and bargain over work conditions and terms of employment. Most people think about labor law in a formal union setting. Labor law definitely involves unionization and union rights in the workplace; however, employees also have rights under labor law without the presence of a formal or permanent union entity. Employees can act ad hoc to negotiate over individual situations as they arise.
Labor law claims often proceed through specific channels rather than lawsuits, such as NLRB complaints or arbitration proceedings under a collective bargaining agreement.
What kind of lawyer do I need?
Chances are good you do not know exactly what claims you may have or how to find the top labor or employment law attorneys in Colorado for your specific needs. That is ok; the good news is that most employee rights attorneys do not distinguish between one or the other.
Labor lawyers in Colorado tend not to practice exclusively in labor law unless employed by a union or union-related organization. If you need a labor attorney in Denver or other parts of Colorado you most likely will end up talking to an employment lawyer. Not all employment attorneys in Colorado have expertise or experience working with labor law so you may need to search carefully for lawyers who fit that need if you have a labor law issue. Employers searching for labor law attorneys in Colorado may have an easier time hiring big law firms who have labor law departments that they can source from offices around the country. Employees will have to look closely to find labor lawyers in Colorado.
Most employees searching for a labor or employment law attorney have employment law claims and need employment law firms in Denver or other parts of Colorado.
Can I find free employment lawyers in Colorado?
Lawyers have a deserved reputation for being expensive. Many people do not have money to throw around casually on legal representation. That is especially true for many employment law claims in which the employee was fired, not hired, demoted or has unpaid wages for work performed. It is common for people to search out pro bono lawyers in Denver and other parts of Colorado or to seek out Colorado labor and employment attorneys for a free consult.
Pro bono lawyers in Colorado
Pro bono lawyers work for free or what is sometimes called “low bono” which is work at a reduced rate. While it is great to receive free labor, often lawyers provide pro bono services to very low income individuals. For example, in the greater Denver, Colorado area pro bono services are available through the Metro Volunteer Lawyers program through the Denver Bar Association. MVL provides pro bono legal services for specific types of cases or documents if the individual is below the income and asset limits set by the organization.
Free consultations with employment lawyers
Lawyers began offering free consultations as a way to get prospective clients in the door. Law firms treat free consultations in different ways. Most often the consult is an opportunity for lawyers to interview prospective clients to determine if there is a worthwhile case and then reach an agreement to proceed with the case. Often legal advice is not offered in the course of a free consultation but some law firms may provide limited legal advise.
Employment attorneys in many parts of the county do not offer free consultations because analyzing whether a labor or employment law claim is worth pursuing is often more complex than making the same determination about a car wreck or divorce. However, personal injury firms, who often provide free consultations, also practice in some areas of employment law and may drive the rest of the legal market towards free or lower cost consultations. If you search for an employment attorney in Denver with a free consultation you will likely find one.
Whether Colorado employment law attorneys provide paid or free consultation is generally not an indication of the qualifications of the lawyer. It is more likely a marketing strategy or a decision by the employment law attorney to only provide legal advice on a paid basis.
Contingency fee lawyers
Many employment law attorneys in Colorado take certain labor and employment law claims on a contingency fee basis. Contingency fee agreements are agreements between lawyer and client to pay the lawyer a percentage of the proceeds of the claims instead of taking payment on an hourly fee or other basis that requires the client to pay out of pocket for the lawyer. Contingency fees allow employees who might not have thousands (or more likely, tens of thousands) of dollars to hire an attorney to represent them in complicated and costly litigation. This fee structure makes it easier for employees to pursue claims they otherwise could not afford.
The percentage paid to the attorney may range from 25% up to as much as 50% depending upon the claims, the law firm and when the case resolves. The contingency fee paid to the labor lawyer or employment lawyer is significant but the law firm essentially takes on the legal work on loan to the client with the risk of nonpayment–even if the law firm does the best possible work. An employment law lawsuit may take over one hundred hours of work to go to trial. At an hourly rate the attorney’s work is extremely expensive and few workers could reasonably afford to pay that out of pocket.
Colorado employment law attorneys typically do not take all cases on contingency. Some labor and employment law work does not lend itself to contingency fee work, like reviewing severance agreements, and sometimes the client’s goal is to avoid litigation which means there is no recovery to divide between lawyer and client. Additionally, employment law attorneys have to carefully screen cases before taking them on contingency; not all cases that could go to trial will produce meaningful recovery. Many employment law claims do not have concrete damages to recover or the facts may not be strong enough to litigate.
Do I need to find a Denver employment lawyer for a labor law or employment law claim in Colorado?
Employees searching for a workplace attorney in Colorado want to find the best employment lawyers. As the largest city and state capital, many people will search for employment attorneys in Denver, Colorado. Generally it would not be a poor decision to hire employment law attorneys in Denver; however, there are labor and employment law attorneys in other parts of Colorado. Location alone typically is not the best way to find an employment lawyer. You can find employment attorneys in Colorado Springs and other large cities in the state.
Your case may benefit from finding a lawyer close to your home; however, generally labor law and employment law lawsuits do not require much time in the law firm’s office. Consider other factors in addition to the location of your lawyer. There may be reasons to hire an attorney close to your workplace or home; but this is likely the exception rather than the rule. Consider many factors while finding an employment law attorney including:
- The attorney’s skills, expertise and experience dealing with labor law and employment law issues;
- The attorney’s reputation with clients and within the legal community;
- Fee structures offered for the work you need from the attorney;
- How the attorney communicates with clients;
- Location of the law firm;
- The attorney’s expertise and experience dealing with the unique issues in your case; and
- The attorney’s comfort dealing with the issues in your case and the size of your employer.
Finding a Denver employment lawyer
Maybe you live in the Denver, Colorado area or feel you will be best served by employment attorneys in Denver. In your search to find the best employment lawyers in Denver you will find many qualified employment attorneys among Denver’s business districts including downtown, Denver Tech Center, Capital Hill and Cherry Creek. Labor lawyers and employment lawyers can also be found outside of the city in Boulder, Broomfield and other northwest suburbs.
Denver is home to employment lawyers who represent employers and employees. In your search to find an employment lawyer or labor lawyer make sure you find attorneys who represent your side. While some lawyers represent both sides, most lawyers practicing in labor and employment law only represent one or the other.