Vandy Beth Glenn was fired from her job with the Georgia General Assembly after disclosing she was going to make the transition from man to woman. On Tuesday, the 11th Circuit upheld the District Court’s ruling that Ms. Glenn was a victim of gender discrimination.
As a solo practitioner working mainly on contingency, budgeting and projecting income can be tricky. Another occupational hazard is making appointments with prospective clients, who then don’t show up and leave me wasting the time it took to get to and from my office and waiting for a no-show. Some other solos have encouraged me to charge a nominal fee for appointments. They insist that it helps cash flow and separates those that are serious about their legal issue from those who may decide not to bother showing up.
While I have not implemented this strategy yet, I can see the purpose. Charging $100 or $150 shows the prospective client that your time is valuable and not to be wasted. It also gives them a sense that they are receiving something of value in the legal advice you impart, even if they do not become a client beyond that meeting.
For now, the marketing benefits of free consultation outweigh the monetary benefits of charging for an appointment. This is probably something to revisit when my firm is more established.
From my old stomping grounds of South Florida comes this interesting story:
This type of thing happens more than we would think. The problem here is that they let this employee have Saturdays off for two years and then changed the rule. The nursing home will be unlikely to prevail on a “business necessity” defense. There is an exemption under Title VII for employment in religion-affiliated organizations, but only for positions that are directly connected to the religion: priest, rabbi, etc.
As the economy continues to stutter, many older employees are affected. Here is a recent article that sums up some of the key signs that age discrimination may be occurring in your workplace:
As kids break for summer, many will be working at the neighborhood pool, summer camp, ice cream store, etc. Most of these jobs allow the summer employee to earn overtime pay (time and a half) when they work more than 40 hours per week. However, if your teenager works at places that are only open seasonally, such as Six Flags, they may not be entitled to overtime pay, even if they work lots of extra hours. Click the above link for more information.
Many people contact an attorney after being fired, laid off, downsized, etc. and believe that there is a claim for wrongful termination. While the employee may have been wrongfully terminated in the literal or emotional sense, this fact alone does not give the person a legal claim to pursue against their former employer.
Georgia is an at-will state, which means that you can be terminated for any reason or no reason at all. Generally, the only illegal reasons that provide some possibility of legal action against your former employer are those that fall under the federal anti-discrimination laws. In some instances of sexual or racial harassment, there may be a state law claim for assault, battery, etc. but these are fairly rare. Federal anti-discrimination laws protect employees against discrimination or retaliation based on race, age, gender, national origin, religion or disability. These claims are often hard to prove without direct evidence (e-mails, witnesses, etc.).
Assuming there are no discrimination issues or state law claims, many terminated or laid off employees that feel victimized or targeted by their former employer have no “wrongful termination” claims that can be pursued by an attorney. There are some other potential claims that can be pursued even if a discrimination claim would not be appropriate or successful:
1) Overtime: If you were a non-exempt (eligible for overtime) employee, you may have a claim for unpaid overtime, off-the-clock hours or some other wage and hour violation. Even if you were paid a salary and told you were exempt from overtime pay, you may still have a claim. Many employers, especially small businesses, believe that paying someone a salary automatically exempts the employer from paying overtime when the employee works more than 40 hours per week. This is not true. In most cases, an employee’s eligibility for overtime is determined by his or her primary job duties.
2) Employee Benefits: If you were enrolled in health benefits, pension benefits, a 401(k) plan, or other benefit plan through your employer, you may have a claim under ERISA, the Federal law that governs certain types of benefit plans. If you had a health condition that was causing your employer’s insurance costs to rise or you were close to vesting in your pension or 401(k) plan, these are facts that can help an attorney determine whether you have a potential claim against your former employer or their insurance company.
If you believe that you have a claim against a current or former employer, contact an attorney as soon as possible. All legal claims have statutes of limitation that apply to limit the time you have to bring a claim against an employer.
Note: In the absence of an engagement agreement or contract of representation, no information contained in this blog constitutes an undertaking of representation or an expression of a binding legal opinion.
So, my idea was to use Google Voice for my phone and fax number, so that if I move to a new office, I won’t have to change numbers. And…so much for that idea.
First, it won’t work as a fax number because Google Voice is digital and fax technology is analog. OK, I can live with that, but now I realized that anytime people call my Voice number, they do not get my receptionist and go straight to voice mail. That is not a good thing. Apparently this is an ongoing issue for the service which has no easy fix. So, I am just giving up using the service altogether and using my regular office number.
Lesson learned – technology is great, but make sure you vet everything carefully before you decide to use it. Google Voice is free, so no money lost there, plus I just caught it in time to print my business cards correctly with the new number. Most newer software and services offer a free trial, so make sure you give them a good practice run before deciding to move forward with them, whether it’s a software download or software as a service.
Even though the content is mostly provided by the large management-side law firms, I find this to be a useful resource in keeping up with the latest employment law news. The site also has a good summary of current employment law statutes from across the country and at the Federal level.
This is the first of what I hope will be many posts on several topics including: employment law, solo practice challenges, law practice technology, social media, news, sports, and anything else that seems interesting or worthy of comment.
There are several markets I hope to serve with this law firm:
1) Provide legal advice and counsel to employees who have claims against their employer for discrimination, unpaid overtime or unpaid benefits
2) Provide legal advice and counsel to small business owners who do not have the benefit of full-time legal or human resources staff to help them understand the complex web of employment laws
3) Provide legal advice and counsel to highly compensated individuals who need assistance negotiating a severance or changing positions under a non-compete or non-solicit agreement with a previous employer
These first couple of weeks have been hectic, mostly because of all the setup tasks that need to be accomplished, as well as determining which clients would be bringing their cases to my new firm. Now that this website/blog is up and most of the initial setup of the firm is done, I can focus on serving clients and marketing the firm.