What is a Contigency Fee?
A contingency fee is an attorney’s fee that is contingent upon money being awarded. If you don’t recover any money on your case, then you don’t pay an attorney’s fee. If a monetary award is obtained, either through settlement or a verdict, the lawyer is paid a percentage of the total recovery. In cases where a contingency fee is agreed to, Most of the cases that Rob takes are on a contingency fee basis. He usually charges 33% of total amount recovered in any pre-suit settlement, but 40% for any recovery after a lawsuit is filed. Contingency fees are not allowed in all types of cases and may sometimes it may be less expensive for you to pay attorney fees by-the-hour or to pay a flat fee. Rob will discuss all of the payment options with you before you sign a representation agreement. He will not charge a standard monthly fee or bill you for a bunch of attorney’s fees just to get through the EEOC process.
Mandatory Disclosure: Contingency fees refer only to those fees charged by attorneys for their legal services. When this website explains that a contingency fee means you don’t pay any attorney’s fees unless you receive a payment through settlement or a judgment, it is only referring to the fees charged by the attorney, not the court costs. Court costs and other additional expenses of legal action usually must be paid by the client even if they might have been advanced by the attorney.
What is important in choosing an employment attorney?
Make sure your Georgia Employment Attorney can handle your case from beginning to end. I’ve had some clients call me after they were dropped by or fired their first employment lawyer. Frankly, I’m surprised at some of the fee arrangements I have heard. One employment firm that frequently advertises on Google, charges their clients hourly and monthly fees, but will only represent the client during the EEOC process or to see if it can obtain an early settlement. If that effort is unsuccessful, then they drop the client when it is time to file a lawsuit. But the client might have already paid them thousands of dollars in fees. There is no reason to pay thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees out of pocket in most cases while your case is being processed by the EEOC. Many employment attorneys don’t like to take cases that other attorneys have already handled. While a contingency fee may not be the best fee structure for all employment discrimination or retaliation claims, you should at least hire an employment attorney who might file a lawsuit if early efforts to settle fail.
Employment law is tricky and it takes most attorneys several years to learn the in and outs of the applicable laws. Because most employment matters are settled or dismissed by courts, many employment attorneys may have virtually zero trial experience. And very few employment lawyers have experience with the appeals process of the appellate courts. Make sure you chose an employment lawyer with the experience and track record to handle every potential stage of your case until it is resolved.
Yes, Rob hates losing any case.
Do you give free consultations?
Sometimes. If you know you cannot afford to pay any attorney’s fees and know in advance that you will need to hire Rob on a contingency fee basis, he will not charge you anything for an initial consultation.
For all cases, a trained paralegal will first interview you for free and run your situation past Rob to see if there is a legal violation he can help you with or if there is a another alternative to hiring a lawyer. If Rob thinks you need to hire him for an in-depth consultation, he will charge you a consultation fee of $430 if he thinks it will take at least an hour, or $215 if he thinks the matter can be handled in about thirty minutes. This often depends on how many documents Rob needs to review to prepare for your consultation. If you pay Rob for a consultation, he is going to spend the time to evaluate whether your rights were violated and to recommend a solution. Rob won’t just tell you whether a law has been broken, or rush you into a lawsuit. Rob will give you all the information you need to make an informed decision for yourself. He will discuss the costs and benefits associated with pursuing legal action, what approach might be in your best interest, and what you can expect if you choose to pursue a claim.
If you don’t have a case, Rob will make sure you understand why, and discuss what other options might be available to you.
Rob will take the time to give you a truly well-rounded evaluation even if it takes longer than the hour you paid for.
How much does it cost to file a lawsuit?
It costs $400 to file a lawsuit in federal court. It costs $199 to file a lawsuit in most Georgia courts. You might have to pay a much smaller fee to serve a summons on each defendant, but in most cases, the defendant agrees to waive service. In addition to these court fees, you may also be responsible for deposition costs, mediation fees, and other fixed costs. Even if Rob agrees to front some of these costs for a contingency fee case, Georgia Bar ethics requirements prohibit any lawyer from agreeing to pay these costs should you not recover any money. If you do recover money, then any unpaid costs will be deducted from the amount recovered.
How much can I recover if I win my case?
This varies greatly depending on the type of case, and how strong of a case you have. In general, the maximum that you can recover in an employment case is a combination of: (1) lost wages and benefits — i.e., the amount that you would have earned had you not been fired, disciplined, or paid properly, from the date of the loss until the date of trial; (2) in some cases, front pay — i.e., lost wages that you will continue to incur past the date of trial may be awarded if the court does not order reinstatement to your job; (3) in some cases, a jury may award an extra amount (known as “compensatory” and “punitive” damages). This amount includes any damages for emotional distress. In many types of federal discrimination cases, this extra amount is capped, depending on how many employees the company has: $50,000 if fewer than 100 employees, $100,000 if 100-200 employees, $200,000 if 201-500 employees, and $300,000 if more than 500 employees.
In Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) cases, instead of compensatory and punitive damages, you are usually able to recover liquidated damages. This means the court will double the lost pay damages you have proven. In order to avoid these double damages, the employer must show that: (a) their actions were taken in good faith and (b) they had reasonable grounds for their belief that they were complying with the law.
In cases brought under the False Claims Act or other whistleblower laws, you may be able to recover a percentage of what the government recovers in the lawsuit.
How long does it take to pursue an employment case?
To be honest, too long. This also varies greatly depending on the type of case. In most cases, you will need to file a charge with the EEOC before you can file a lawsuit. The EEOC keeps your file for up to 180 (sometimes longer). After the EEOC finishes its investigation or we ask them to wrap it up for going past 180 days, the EEOC will issue what is called a “Notice of Right to Sue” letter, which allows you to move forward in court within 90 days. Once you file a lawsuit in court, it might take up to one or two years before you get to trial. You can count on the other side filing motions to try to get your case dismissed before your case is scheduled for trial. Employment litigation is a long and stressful process. That is why it often makes sense to consider an early settlement. Most cases are eventually resolved before trial. Rob has an outstanding record of obtaining results through settlement, trial, or appeal. In fact, out of the hundreds of clients Rob has represented, he has a only lost a handful of cases (meaning that a favorable voluntary settlement or judgment was not obtained at some point in the matter).
Yes, it makes Rob mad to lose these cases.
Will my lawsuit show up on the internet?
Not usually. In order to see if you have filed a lawsuit, someone would have to register for a Pacer account to specifically search for your case by name. Some employers may go that far in background checks, but in our experience, not many. Unless there is a published decision by the trial court (rare) or an appeals court (frequent) in your case, there is nothing that can be found doing a general web search. Very few employment lawsuits are reported on by online media. EEOC Charges are confidential and cannot be searched for on the internet.
I won my unemployment benefits hearing — does this mean I am likely to also win my lawsuit?
No. To be awarded Georgia DOL unemployment benefits, the employer has the burden to show that you were fired for disqualifying reasons (such as misconduct) and you only have the burden to show you didn’t voluntarily quit. In a lawsuit, the burden will be on you to prove much more. You must show that you were fired for an illegal reason. For example – if you were terminated because your employer did not think you performed well, you would probably prevail on your unemployment benefits claim as long as you tried to perform well and were not let go for misconduct. Poor performance, however, is a legal reason to fire someone, and unless you can show you were singled out for a discriminatory reason, you cannot win your case.
Georgia is a "Right to Work" state - what does that mean?
This is a commonly misunderstand phrase that people often confuse with “employment at will.” Georgia’s “right-to-work” law simply prohibits agreements between labor unions and employers that require employees’ membership, payment of union dues, or fees as a condition of employment. Right-to-work laws do not provide a general guarantee of employment to people seeking work. Rather, they prevent employers from excluding non-union workers. “Right to Work” has nothing to do with “employment at will.”
What makes a termination "wrongful"?
Wrongful termination is another frequently overused and misunderstood term. Employers are allowed to make bad, unfair, and illogical decisions. Even if you are fired for something you didn’t do, the termination is not necessarily “wrongful” under the law. The only employment actions recognized as “wrongful” under the law are those that have been made illegal by a statute. What makes an action “wrongful” or illegal is the motivation behind it — i.e., the reason WHY an employer fires, disciplines, or otherwise treats an employee differently. Some reasons are perfectly legal (e.g., preference for family members, personality conflicts, etc.). Other reasons are illegal under federal law (e.g., race, national origin, color, age, gender, disability, or religion, complaints about unlawful acts, etc.).
Besides these federal laws, there are Georgia laws that also make it illegal to terminate employees for certain reasons. For example, a Georgia employer cannot fire an employee for responding to a lawful subpoena or serving on jury duty.
you want to know whether your termination was illegal, please contact Rob.
Does my employer have to tell me why I'm being fired?
No. There is no rule or law that requires employers to disclose the reasons you are being terminated. Most employers do disclose the reasons, but they are not required to do so. Some shady employment attorneys advise employers not to provide a reason so that they can come up with a legally defensible reason later.
One way to try to force an answer on the reason you are being fired is to ask the employer for a Separation Notice (DOL-800 form).
If the employer does not provide a Separation Notice, which is one of the most ignored requirements of Georgia law, you might be able to force your employer to provide the reasons during the unemployment benefits process. Having a Georgia employment lawyer like Rob represent you during your telephone hearing is one of the best ways to force the employer to provide each specific reason they terminated you under oath. This locks the employer into the reason so that they cannot change it later before the EEOC or during your lawsuit. The transcript or audiotape of the unemployment benefits telephone hearing has been one of the most valuable pieces of evidence in many of the cases Rob has brought.
What kind of evidence do I need to support a claim?
Remember that employment actions are only illegal if they were made because of someone’s protected traits or acts. We have to prove that the employer’s motivation was based on one of these illegal reasons — which is often a very difficult task. People usually don’t come right out and admit their wrongful motivations. Instead, they will assert an alternative, neutral reason for the employment action. You will need a good amount of “circumstantial evidence” that suggests the asserted, legitimate reason is false, and that the employer was really motivated by a different, illegal reason. Witnesses besides yourself are important, as are documents that back up your version of the facts. Inconsistent enforcement of rules and policies can often help you prove selective enforcement. When it’s just your word (or your suspicions) against the employer’s, it can be hard to prevail against your employer.
I was fired over a false accusation - do I have a case?
Not necessarily. Employers are allowed to make bad decisions, and even wrong decisions, about why they fire someone. It’s not illegal unless the false accusation was made to cover up a different, illegal reason (such as discriminatory or retaliatory reason).
What is the deadline for me to pursue my claim?
There are different deadlines for each type of claim that you might pursue. Lawyers usually refer to these deadlines as the “statute of limitations.”
To preserve most claims under the most common federal anti-discrimination or anti-retaliation laws if you are a Georgia employee (Title VII, ADA, ADEA, and PDA), you must file a charge with the EEOC within 180 days of the adverse employment action, and then file a lawsuit within 90 days (depending on the nature of the claim) after the EEOC issues its “Notice of Right to Sue” letter.
The deadlines might differ for other federal claims:
Section 1981= 4 years
FMLA = 2 years (or 3 years if willful violation)
FLSA = 2 years (or 3 years if willful violation)
Equal Pay Act = 2 years (or 3 years if willful violation)
False Claims Act Retaliation = 3 years
False Claims Act Qui Tam = (1) 6 years after the date on which the violation is committed; or (2) 3 years after the date when the material facts giving rise to the cause of action are known or reasonably should have been known by the U.S. official responsible for acting on FCA violations (i.e. DOJ official), but in no event more than 10 years after the date on which the violation is committed.
Some of the most common deadlines for claims based on Georgia law are:
Breach of Written Contract = 6 years
Breach of Oral Contract = 4 years
Fraud = 4 years
Libel or Slander = 1 year
Battery = 2 years
In addition, for some claims against counties and municipalities in Georgia, you may have to send them what is called an ante litem notice before you can file a lawsuit. For municipalities, this notice is due within six months of the unlawful act. For counties, this notice is due within twelve months.
Do not wait until it is too late to file your claim.
**Note: there are exceptions to some of these deadlines, and it is often very fact-dependent as to when the deadline begins to run. In certain limited circumstances, sometimes the law allows tolling of the statute of limitations. You will need to consult with an attorney to determine your exact deadline.
Do I have a right to see my personnel file?
No, unless you are a federal, state, county, or municipal employee. Georgia law does not require an employer to allow an employee to access his or her personnel file. Georgia employees may request copies of their personnel file documents under the the Georgia Open Records Act and federal employees can do so through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.