Americans brought around 80,000 lawsuits against their employers in 2019. Experts believe these types of cases will likely increase in the next few years. This prediction is due in part to the complications the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to every aspect of the workplace.
Regardless of why employees bring lawsuits against their employers, hiring an employment lawyer is crucial to their success. Yet many employees worry that they will not be able to afford the attorney fees potentially associated with their cases.
Is this a reasonable fear? How much does an employment lawyer cost? Here’s what you need to know.
Employment Law Cases
Employees sue their employers for many reasons. Most involve some form of wrongful termination. From most common to least common, the primary allegations in employment cases are:
- Employer retaliation for employees reporting discrimination
- Disability-related claims
- Racial discrimination
- Sex-based discrimination
- Age discrimination
- Sexual harassment
- Discrimination based on national origin or color
- Religious discrimination
- Equal Pay Act violations
- Misuse of or discrimination on the basis of genetic information
In all of these situations, the aid of an employment discrimination lawyer is vital to helping employees win their cases. The law, precedents, and procedures involved are too complex for individuals to handle alone. This is particularly true since employers will always have their own attorneys to handle cases on their behalf.
How Do Lawyer Fees Work?
Employment discrimination attorneys may use several different fee systems. Here are the most common.
- Flat fee “a la carte” services
- Hourly rates
- Contingency fees
Flat Fee “a La Carte” Services
In an “a la carte” situation, attorneys complete specific tasks for a set fee. For example, the attorney may review and revise paperwork the client has created for their case for $200.
The attorney does only what they are contracted to do, and the client handles the remainder of the case themselves. This can be a good fit for clients who are confident in their ability to navigate the system and just need assistance with details or someone to check their work. It is not a good fit for individuals who need someone to fight for them.
Attorneys may charge for their services by the hour. Typically, they calculate time in small increments such as six or 15-minute chunks. How time is calculated can make a significant difference in the final bill, so it is important to inquire about this point ahead of time.
Contingency fees are the most convenient way for many employees to secure an attorney to fight on their behalf. In a contingency fee situation, clients pay their attorneys nothing up front.
If the attorney wins the case for the client, they take their fees from the money the client is awarded as damages. If they do not win the case, clients owe nothing. This enables employees to take their employers to court risk-free, even when they have limited personal resources.
Contingency fees may run from 30 to 50 percent, depending on the complexity of the case and billing policies.
Some attorneys roll their actual non-labor costs, such as filing fees, into their contingency rate. This results in a higher rate but no other charges. Other firms offer a lower contingency rate but bill their non-labor costs separately.
In either case, clients pay nothing unless and until they win their case. All payments are deducted from their damage awards and are not paid out of pocket.
Other Factors That Influence Cost
Other factors also play a key role in how much it will cost to hire an employment lawyer. Understanding these factors in advance can make it easier to avoid sticker shock when searching for an attorney.
Where You Live
Some cities are simply more expensive to live in and do business in than others. If you live in an area with a high cost of living, attorney services will be more expensive than if you lived somewhere else. This is unavoidable.
Court fees and other lawsuit-associated costs will also be higher. At the same time, your wages and the damages to which you are entitled should also be assessed using the local scale. In most cases, however, this will balance out.
Highly experienced lawyers rightfully charge more than those with less experience. Their reputations, knowledge, and practice all assist them in getting the best possible outcomes and their prices reflect that.
Case Complexity and Contentiousness
Some cases are straightforward. Employers may know that they have made a mistake and be interested in settling as quickly and quietly as possible to avoid making a bad situation worse. Alternatively, there may be clear evidence that makes proving the case an open-and-shut task.
In these cases, attorneys may be able to achieve good outcomes with a minimum of time and effort. As a result, the costs to the client will be modest.
Other cases are inherently harder to prove. Some employers have hard-ball attorneys and fight tooth and nail not to pay a dime. Complications and contested information can make winning the case a long, slow, and tedious process.
Such cases require more time, energy, and resources than other cases. They will cost clients more no matter how good the attorney or how reasonable the rates.
How Much Does an Employment Lawyer Cost?
So when all is said and done, how much can you expect hiring an employment discrimination lawyer to cost? On average, each hour of an attorney’s time is between $100 and $600. Total case expenses can easily top $10,000 for a standard case and may run much higher for drawn-out or complicated cases.
However, these costs are drop in the bucket compared to what you stand to gain from winning a suit with a lawyer by your side.
To get real and accurate estimates of the costs and potential winnings in your personal case, you can consult a local attorney in person or view more info here.
If you’ve been exposed to workplace discrimination, “how much does an employment lawyer cost?” is probably only one of the many questions you have about your situation. Check out our other blog posts on the subject to get the information you need to make decisions with confidence today.