What type of law do you practice?
I am primarily an employment lawyer, and I serve clients throughout South Louisiana. I practice in all areas of labor and employment law, but my primary focus involves lawsuit and claims for unpaid wages, unpaid overtime, and unpaid commissions. I represent both workers and companies. I also practice appellate law, particularly in writ applications and other matters before the Louisiana Supreme Court. For more information on these practice areas, click here.
How long have you practiced law?
I graduated cum laude from LSU Law School in 2006 and have been practicing since then. For more information about my background and experience in employment law, click here.
Do I have to file a lawsuit within a certain time frame?
Yes. All legal rights have time limits, called prescriptive periods or statutes of limitations. The length of time you have to file suit depends on the type of claim. For instance, claims for discriminatory or retaliatory termination must be filed within 300 days under federal law, but within one year under Louisiana state law. Claims for unpaid overtime generally must be filed within two or three years, depending on whether the employer’s nonpayment was “willful.” Determining the correct time limit for a certain claim can be complex, so it is important to speak with an employment lawyer as soon as possible. Delaying too long can cause you to lose your rights. Contact me through the contact page or at (504) 267-0777.
Can you tell me whether I have a strong case without spending a lot of money?
Employment law can be complex, and many people do not know where to start. The initial telephone consultation is always free. In that conversation I will do my best to give you my opinion on the likely strength of your claim or defense, or at least determine what additional information is needed. I find it helps if potential clients first write down a brief summary of events, as this makes the initial conversation flow much more smoothly. Taking advantage of an initial consultation does not create an attorney-client relationship and does not bind you to hire me as your attorney.
How much do your services cost?
The initial telephone consultation is free, and there will never be a charge for the first phone call. Otherwise, the pricing structure depends on the type of matter. For individuals pursuing claims against employers or former employers, a contingency fee is most common. This means that no money is paid unless and until you recover. If your claim is ultimately unsuccessful for any reason, you will not owe me anything. If your claim is successful, my fee is taken as a percentage of the recovery.
For clients who are defending against a suit, I generally charge on an hourly basis. My regular hourly rate is $280.00, although that can vary depending on the matter type. Some clients prefer a blended fee, which involves a combination of a reduced hourly rate combined with a modest contingency fee component. I provide monthly updates of all fees and expenses incurred so that you can keep a close eye on the charges.
I also charge flat fees for certain discrete matters, such as drafting a non-competition agreement, revising an employee handbook, or investigating and responding to a single-employee charge from the EEOC or Louisiana Commission on Human Rights. If you have any questions about fees or pricing structure, please do not be afraid to ask.
How often will you update me on the status of my case?
All lawyers have an ethical duty to keep clients fully informed . I take my ethical duties seriously, and I always respond to voice mails and e-mails. You can rest assured that you will be kept in the loop of any upcoming deadlines, hearings, or important developments in your case. With that in mind, the legal process is often slow, and matters can be delayed for reasons beyond the attorney’s control – patience is an unfortunate reality of litigation.
How long will my case take?
While some matters may be amicably resolved after an exchange of letters and a few telephone calls, the reality is that most litigation – particularly employment litigation – takes significantly longer than that. It is not unusual for a lawsuit to take months, or even years, before final resolution, particular if there is an appeal.
My company is small – do I really need to worry about employment law or employee handbooks?
Absolutely. While some employment laws do not apply to very small businesses, almost all companies are subject to at least some laws regulating the employer-employee relationship. More importantly, most small business turn into medium-sized or large businesses, or hope to do so one day. It is crucial that you implement strong and lawful employment practices and policies from day one, so that those policies and practices are already in place as your business begins to grow. Relying on informal or ad hoc policies can lead to sloppy habits and set bad precedents for the future. When it comes to employment law, an ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound of cure.
I’ve been unfairly fired. How can I sue?
That depends. There is no law against “unfair” or “wrongful” termination. For the most part, an employer can fire an employee at any time, even if he or she has done nothing wrong. However an employer may not fire or discipline an employee based on age, race, gender, national origin, disability or (in some places) sexual orientation. For example, if an employer looks the other way when younger employees violate a certain policy, but terminates an older employee for violating that same policy, the older employee may have a valid claim for age discrimination. It is also illegal to fire someone in retaliation for reporting the employer’s violation of the law.
Whether an employer’s conduct violates the law is often very fact-intensive, and it is important to have guidance from an experienced employment lawyer at the outset. Strict time limits apply to employment claims under both federal and state law. It is important to contact an employment lawyer as soon as you believe your rights have been violated.
I’m an independent contractor. Do employment laws still apply?
Most employment laws do not apply to true independent contractors. However, many employers misclassify workers as independent contractors even though they should be treated as employees. Determining whether an individual is truly an independent contractor involves a complex, multi-factor test and focuses on whether he or she truly operates as an independent business, or is solely within the control of the employer. Simply sending a worker a 1099 form instead of a W2, or asking him to sign a contract marked “Independent Contractor Agreement,” is not enough.
Companies prefer to treat workers as independent contractors because it involves less paperwork and saves on taxes. Workers often agree, usually because it’s the only way to get the job. That does not prevent the worker from later suing and claiming that he should have been classified as an employee. If you have any questions about the independent contractor relationship, or what it means to be an employee, call or e-mail me today.
Call New Orleans employment lawyer Charles Stiegler today at (504) 267-0777 or email me through the contact us page.