Friday, January 28, 2011

Employment Rights | Aggressive Tactics

Today I received a 75-page packet. I groaned.

Whenever I receive a big packet in my office mailbox, I know it’s no Christmas present . . . unless you ask Santa Claus for pages and pages of documents to review!

A lot of clients want a lawyer who is "aggressive," which is understandable because many clients are in lawsuits because they feel hurt. But, realistically, aggression should always take a back seat to being reasonable. My motto is to "get the job done right."

The best lawyers I know get to the point. They are able to clearly summarize complex ideas. A less skilled lawyer prattles on and on or dumps unnecessary information. But quantity is not quality.

Today’s mail was a needlessly aggressive gesture. The court will probably assume that the opposing counsel just dumped the information, posturing to impress its client. The lawyer did not help her client.

In short, hire a diligent lawyer who will not bill you for unnecessarily "aggressive" tactics. Get a lawyer who gets the job done right.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Employment Rights | WARN Act Ruling Favors Workers

Judge Smith from the 9th Circuit just recently held that if an employee leaves a job because the business is closing, that employee has not “voluntarily departed” within the meaning of the WARN Act. Instead, there was an “employment loss.” Michael Subit successfully argued the case on behalf of Frank, Freed, Subit & Thomas, LLP.

The WARN Act is a law that requires an employer to order a plant closing or layoff only after “warns,” or gives written notice, to each affected employee. 29 U.S.C. § 2102(a). If the employment loss is for 50 or more employees, then the notice must be 60 days. If you have additional questions about the law, ask a lawyer.

This case is good news for workers. If you are working at business that is about to lay off a lot of workers, then you may be able to quit before the losses actually happen.

You may have more time to find a new job!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Employment Rights | Unemployment Insurance Benefits For Me?

Before the economic downturn you never thought it would happen to you, but all of a sudden you're unemployed. You don't need a lawyer to tell you that unemployment not only hurts your pocketbook, but it also hurts your dignity.

I enjoy helping people get back on their feet, so I have represented many people seeking unemployment benefits. I meet all sorts of people who have recently lost their jobs. Many people I meet are good and decent. The range of people is extraordinary. I hear from people who are young, old, men, women, immigrants, educated, rich, poor . . . you get the idea. You are not alone.

To determine whether you are eligible for unemployment, the honest-to-goodness best option is to speak to a lawyer who is knowledgeable in the area of unemployment appeals employment law. If you look up the laws on your own, you risk knowing only part of the laws. Or you risk misinterpreting a law, performing poorly at the hearing, or setting in stone a lousy record for appeal. Once you have a hearing before the Administrative Law Judge, the challenge to reverse the decision increases tremendously because you almost always cannot add information to what was already said or not said.

But, still, it is wise to read the laws and there is helpful information for lay persons at the Employment Security Department website. You may be eligible for benefits if you worked at least 680 hours in your base year in a job covered by Unemployment Insurance, are fully or partially unemployed, are unemployed through no fault of your own, are able, available, and actively seeking suitable work, are legally authorized to work in the United States (if not a US Citizen), and did not earn too much money during a week / did not have other disqualifying income.

A major distinction is whether you quit or were fired. If you quit, you must prove good cause. If you were fired, the employer must prove misconduct. The RCW and WAC explain what good cause and misconduct include and exclude, although most of the law is relatively broad. So, this means the judge will have a lot of power to influence the outcome of the case. Generally, a worker is better off with a misconduct case, and the employer is generally at a greater advantage in a quit case.

As they say, "The devil is in the details." I meet many well-intentioned people who try to navigate the unemployment process on their own - after all who can afford a lawyer when you're unemployed - but  mistakes inevitably arise. Many people feel surprised that they do not receive benefits; they did not anticipate a struggle. But there almost always is one.

Document filing, oral hearings, and writing appeals all matter. Almost always, the process will take longer than you think. Consulting with an attorney knowledgeable in this area of law is well worth the investment.

So, now you have a bird's eye view of the potentially lengthy process before you receive benefits. In the meantime, keep your chin up while looking for that new job!