There is no legal requirement that you have a lawyer to file a charge of
discrimination. But the fact that there's no legal requirement doesn't make it a wise and prudent course of conduct.
Don't Lawyers Always Say That A Lawyer Is Needed?
There are, in fact, very few circumstances in which one is legally required to be represented by counsel. There are some persons who will read this Quick Legal Guide and think, "Well, don't ask a barber if you need a haircut" -- in other words, that it is not surprising that an attorney will recommend that one hire an attorney. Now, it's true that attorneys frequently recommend that one hire an attorney, and that dentists recommend that one go to the dentist, that bakers usually tout the benefits of eating fresh baked goods, that life insurance salespeople will tell you the
advantages of having life insurance, and so on. But that should not detract from the wisdom of the advice.
What Legal Protections Are Available?
If you're reading this, you probably feel that you were victimized by discrimination. It might be based on gender, or on age, race, national origin, color, disability, or religion. There are state and federal laws in New York (and even the City of New York has its own set of laws) that deal with employment discrimination.
Can I Easily Understand These Laws?
These laws can be difficult to navigate, and the interplay between state and federal laws create additional complexity. As an example, federal law allows 180 days to file an employment discrimination charge, but in states that have laws dealing with such discrimination and that have a state agency dealing with the specific kind of discrimination, that is extended to 300 days. There are many laws that must be navigated, and I am persuaded that one is far better off having a lawyer file a charge of discrimination. There are also separate rules for federal employees. And federal and state laws differ as to the minimum number of employees that an employer must have in order for a charge of discrimination to be filed against that employer.
Can A Lawyer Draft A More Effective Charge Than I Can?
Because attorneys know the law, they are in a better position to draft a charge that highlights the provisions of the law that have been violated and in presenting the background facts in a way that will be more compelling both legally and factually. Sometimes a fact that may seem unimportant or extraneous to the victim of the discrimination will be something that a lawyer will understand needs to be emphasized. Other times, including a particular fact may be misleading to a federal or state human rights agency and requires that it be worded in specific ways so that it benefits your case rather than works against it. And attorneys are familiar with the time limitations and the various legal requisites involved in filing a charge of discrimination.
But Isn't It Very Expensive To Hire A Lawyer?
It can be. However, I usually try to make it feasible for almost everyone to file an employment discrimination charge. For that reason, I charge a flat fee of as little as $500 to prepare and file a discrimination charge. Usually, this involves several hours of work, so that the person on whose behalf the charge is filed is, in effect, receiving legal services that, if billed by the hour, would come out to thousands of dollars.
What Is The Most Important Thing For Me To Know?
As the advertisements for the lottery say, "You gotta be in it to win it." You have to be very careful to make sure that time limits don't slip by. It's crucial that you consult with an attorney as soon as possible after an event of discrimination so that you can make sure that no deadline is missed.