• Marc Kroop

Do I Need To Consult With A Labor Lawyer or An Employment Lawyer?

While the terms Labor Lawyer or Labor Attorney have become virtually interchangeable with the terms Employment Lawyer or Employment Attorney, there are still important distinctions that you should understand when determining whether you need to hire a traditional Labor Lawyer or an Employment Lawyer.

The term Labor Lawyer, in the traditional sense, refers to a lawyer that represents the interests of either labor or management in a union shop. A traditional Labor Lawyer takes responsibility for negotiating collective bargaining agreements and also advises their clients (either the union or management) on issues related to or arising out of the collective bargaining agreement. These issues include grievances for unfair labor practices, (misclassification), breach of the union's duty of fair representation or other issues. Since the issues under collective bargaining agreements are complex, most traditional Labor Lawyers will limit their practices to representing either unions or management.

When a union employee has a grievance that falls under the collective bargaining agreement, that grievance is actually owned by the union. The union is responsible for deciding whether the grievance will be pursued. The union may pursue a grievance or decline to do so. So long as the union's abandonment of the employee's claim is not arbitrary, the union is free to decline a grievance. A union employee will typically have to live with the union's decision and cannot overturn or sidestep the union's decision by hiring their own counsel. The exception is where there is compelling evidence that the grievance was not pursued by the union for entirely arbitrary reasons.

There are also situations where a union members' claim(s) will fall outside the collective bargaining agreement. Those claims are not subject to the control and discretion of the union. Typically, those claims will include sexual harassment, discrimination or other intentional acts that fall outside the purview of the collective bargaining agreement. In those cases, a union employee may seek the help of an Employment Lawyer outside of the union.

If a union member is unsure about whether their claim is subject to the collective bargaining agreement, it is important to seek help immediately. Claims that arise under collective bargaining agreements typically have a very short window of time in order for a union member to file a grievance. Sometimes the collective bargaining agreement specifies that the employee's window to file a grievance is as short as a few days or weeks. Also, claims that may be brought by a union employee in Federal Court or with the National Labor Relations Board may have a very short time window for filing of six months.

Finding a traditional Labor Lawyer to consult with may take some effort. There are fewer traditional Labor Lawyers than there are Employment Lawyers. For union employees in need of help with traditional labor law issues arising under a collective bargaining agreement, the place to start is with the union itself. The union typically provides its employees with a union representative who is familiar with all collective bargaining issues and who will be involved in managing or arbitrating the employee's grievance. The union representative also is responsible for consulting with the union's Labor Counsel.

For claims by non-union employees that do not involve any collective bargaining agreement, finding an Employment Lawyer that specializes in employment claims such as wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, retaliation or wage & hour is best. Since most Employment Lawyers offer a free consultation, finding the best Employment Lawyer for your case may require some research.

For employees that do not know any Employment Lawyers personally, it may be helpful to obtain a referral(s) to Employment Lawyers from friends, colleagues or even from attorneys that practices in another area of law.

Otherwise, an attorney referral service can be very helpful as well. Usually, online referral services have requirements for attorneys to maintain membership on the referral panel. This may include a certain level of experience, prompt follow up with clients or verification of malpractice insurance. A referral service such as Attorney Search Network (www.getareferral.com) can put you in touch with an Employment Lawyer near you. (By way of disclosure, I have been working with Attorney Search Network for over 10 years and believe it provides among the best attorney referral services in the State of California). There are other reputable services as well. This includes your local county bar associations that provide referral services and some other private services as well. All attorney referral services are licensed by the State Bar of California. Attorney referral services must meet the bar's requirements to continue as a source of lawyer referrals for the public.

Kroop Labor Law provides a free initial consultation for clients with labor and employment issues. Our practice covers the entire Bay Area. We can provide you with a location to meet with us that best meets your needs depending on where you work or reside. Our East Bay office is located at 2950 Buskirk Avenue, Suite 300, Walnut Creek, CA 94597. Our San Francisco office is located at 100 Pine Street, Suite 1250, San Francisco, CA 94111. To set up a free initial consultation in our most convenient office near you, call us at (925) 989-8264. Otherwise, email as at info@krooplaborlaw.com for an immediate written response to your employment concerns.

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