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April 1, 2024

How Much Does an Employment Lawyer Cost in California?

Legally reviewed by: Jessica Anvar Stotz, JD, MBA

If you have been harassed or discriminated against at work, faced wrongful termination, or some other issue at work, you may be wondering about your legal options and how much it will cost to hire an employment lawyer.

You may pay nothing at the outset if your attorney works on a contingency basis, or you may pay an hourly rate for their legal services. Employment lawyers in California generally charge anywhere from $98 to $450 per hour, depending on their years of experience and level of expertise.

Ultimately, it is impossible to know how much your case is worth and how much an employment attorney will cost without knowing all of the details. This is why it’s crucial to speak with a reputable employment attorney who can inform you on their rates and how much you could expect to receive in a settlement for your claim.

Your case value can depend on a range of factors, including your salary, employment benefits, pension, and other items. It is not uncommon for some claimants to receive settlements in the six figures. Your only way of truly understanding how much your claim could be worth is by enlisting the legal assistance of a labor or employment lawyer.

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What is an employment lawyer?

Employment lawyers are lawyers who assist workers in legal disputes involving their employers. If you are a worker filing an employment-related claim, your employment lawyer serves as your legal representative who can help you navigate the often-difficult process of suing your employer in court.

You may need the assistance of an employment or labor attorney if you or a colleague are experiencing any of the following at work:

  • Harassment/Discrimination based on a protected characteristic such as race, gender, sexual orientation, physical disability etc.
  • A hostile coworker, executive, boss, manager, client, guest or other actor at work
  • Not being paid fairly or on time
  • Wrongful termination

These attorneys can assist employees who are injured or become ill at work file effective workers’ compensation claims. They can also assist workers in filing appeals due to a denial of their benefits.

Employers often consult employment lawyers to ensure that they are acting in compliance with federal, state, and local laws. Employment lawyers can assist employers if they are accused of non-compliance. Employers generally contact employment lawyers for the following reasons:

  • The employer is seeking legal representation in collective bargaining negotiations with a union
  • An employee has filed a formal complaint due to discrimination or harassment
  • The employer is listed as a defendant in an employment-related legal matter
  • The employer has plans to institute a layoff, terminate a large number of workers, end an employee benefit, or alter any current pension plans

employment lawyer cost

What kinds of cases do they handle?

The following are some of the most common cases that labor attorneys generally handle:

  • Wrongful Termination: Employment attorneys can help workers who were terminated from their jobs for illegal reasons such as discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and whistleblowing.
  • Workplace Discrimination: If you are being treated unfairly at work because of your gender, race, age (40+), sexual orientation, pregnancy, or other class protected by state or federal laws, you may have an employment claim.
  • Workplace Harassment: It is unlawful for someone at work to harass you through offensive behavior such as threats, assaults, epithets, offensive jokes, or unwanted sexual advances. If offensive conduct creates a hostile work environment at your workplace, then you may have a claim against your employer.
  • Wages and Overtime: Workers deserve to be paid justly and on time. If you work more than 40 hours during one work week period, then you are entitled to overtime page. Our California employment attorneys have defended workers who were shorted money that they rightfully earned from their employers. This illegal practice is known as wage theft.
  • Retaliation: Under federal law, your employer is prohibited from taking adverse action or retaliating against you if you are involved in a lawsuit against them. Employers may retaliate by lowering your salary, demoting you, or giving you a schedule that would disrupt your life outside of work. Your employer is also prohibited from taking adverse action against you.

How do they charge clients?

In California, employment cases can vary significantly. As such, the manner in which employment lawyers charge for their services can also vary due to the complexity of the case and their own experience and expertise in handling similar cases.

Many employment attorneys bill their clients by the hour. An employment lawyer offers an hourly rate and generally tracks their time in 10- or 15-minute increments. The more time your attorney spends on your case, the more the employment lawyer cost.

Other attorneys work on a contingency basis. You may have heard the phrase “we only get paid if you win.” By working on a contingent free basis, your legal team is contingent on you winning your case.

Attorneys working on a contingency basis generally do not charge upfront fees. In cases like these, the average retainer fee for an employment lawyer is initially $0 since all earnings are contingent upon whether your attorney wins your case. If your attorney wins in court, then they receive a percentage of the final settlement amount as payment.

Although less common, some employment attorneys may charge you a flat rate, meaning that you pay a fixed total amount upfront for their services. If your case is complex and requires more work, your attorney may modify that amount. Whichever way your attorney charges clients, make sure you completely understand their billing policies before signing any contracts for their legal representation.

What factors affect how much they cost?

So, how much does an employment attorney cost? This ultimately depends on the unique facts of your case. Time is perhaps the most important factor in determining how much legal services will cost you. The more complex your case is, the more time your attorney will need to help settle your case.

The more time your attorney spends on your case, the more they may charge if you are paying for their legal services by the hour. If your attorney is working on a contingency basis, time is not necessarily a major factor in how much hiring an employment lawyer will cost you, since you do not have to pay your attorney throughout the process as you would for an attorney who is working hourly.

Keep in mind that it is critical for employees to file their claims as soon as possible, as your outcome in court improves the earlier you file. In California, there is a 2-year statute of limitations for those seeking back pay or restricted damages.

In circumstances where an employer is implicated in a willful violation of the standards set for in the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA sets standards for the following in the state:

  • Overtime pay
  • Minimum wage
  • Bookkeeping/Record keeping
  • Child/youth labor in both the public and private sectors.

Although it can vary by state, salaries offered by employers cannot go below the federal minimum wage standard of $7.25. In California, the current state minimum wage in 2022 is $15 per hour for employers with over 25 employees and $14 per hour for employers with over 25 employees. On January 1, 2023, the minimum wage statewide, regardless of company size, will be set at $15.50 per hour throughout California.

how much does an employment attorney cost

How long does a case take?

Employment lawsuits can take a long time- this is particularly true for discrimination, harassment, and wrongful termination cases. In California, the average employment lawsuit takes at least one year or more to litigate, though many are resolved in a matter of months. Depending on the value of your case, it could be longer. The more money at stake, the longer it will take to fully litigate.

You cannot directly file a civil claim against your employer for workplace harassment, discrimination, or wrongful termination. Before making a claim, you must file a formal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against your employer. The EEOC is the federal agency tasked with upholding workplace laws across the United States.

The agency investigates allegations of employer misconduct. If you believe that you have been subjected to harassment or discrimination due to your race, religion, gender, age, pregnancy or any other protected quality, then you have the right to file a complaint with the EEOC against your employer.

If your claim is valid, the EEOC will issue you a document called a Notice of the Right to Sue. If your employer’s conduct is serious enough, the EEOC may even file a lawsuit on your behalf. A labor attorney can assist you with these preliminary processes.

Why should I hire an employment attorney?

California boasts some of the nation’s most labor-friendly employment policies, however, these laws can only protect you if you take legal action. If you or a colleague at work are experiencing discrimination, harassment, wrongful termination, denial of rightful wages, or other forms of abuse, you may be eligible for financial compensation for the emotional and economic damages you have sustained as a result.

A skilled employment attorney can help maximize the compensation you deserve. Your attorney can also assist you in filing a claim with the EEOC, which is required if you wish to file a claim against an employer.

If the EEOC finds that your employment related complaint is true and that your company violated federal workplace standards, you may be able to earn a sizeable settlement directly from the EEOC.

Getting this settlement is made much easier with the legal help of an experienced employment attorney. Your chances of success in both your EEOC claim and later civil claim against your employer greatly increase when you hire legal representation.

If you live in the Los Angeles area, LawLinq can assist you in finding a highly skilled and reputable employment attorney. We make sure that each attorney we refer you to is California State Bar-certified and that they are up to date on their licensing and continuing education.

Utilizing LawLinq can help make your search for exceptional legal representation a much faster and easier process. The cost of an employment consultation for your case by an attorney is completely free. Get started by giving us a call at 855-997-2588 or by filling out an online form today.

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About the Author

Jessica Anvar

California Consumer Litigation Attorney Jessica Anvar, Esq. is the Founder and Managing Partner of Lemon Law Experts California’s leading lemon law firm. She has multiple years’ worth of experience working with both state and federal lemon laws. Her practice focuses exclusively on consumer protection cases. Ms. Anvar received her J.D. from Loyola Law School. She also earned a Master of Business Administration degree from Loyola Marymount University. Jessica is very active in her local legal community and has helped thousands of clients across the state of California. She has an outstanding record as a true advocate for consumers.

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