Angry and frustrated at your employer? Ready to make them pay by going to the public library and studying up on wage and hour laws? Hold on there, slick.
Before you go barreling into a legal bout with your boss over the overtime you weren't paid for and the unpaid time you were forced to work, try and consider all the ways an attorney could do it better.
For starters, here are five things a wage and hour lawyer can do that a non-lawyer probably can't:
1. Know State-Specific Wage and Hour Laws.
You may have a general inkling about how minimum wage and hourly restrictions work in your state, but are you willing to bet your compensation on it? Each state and municipality may have its own minimum wage and overtime protections -- ones that may be more stringent than the federal standards. Not to mention pay day requirements.
2. Determine If Your Wage/Hour Claim Has Merit.
Umbrage with your employer may blind you to how strong your case actually is. During a consultation, a wage and hour attorney can objectively size up your case and determine if it's worth a toot. He or she may share some free advice and expertise as well -- like educating you in how most employers are not required to offer paid sick time off.
3. Argue That You're Not a Contractor, You're an Employee.
While your employer may have called you an independent contractor, you could still be considered an employee under the law. The difference between the two sometimes comes down to small substantive differences, rooted in case law, that your attorney can highlight with ease.
4. Tell You When You Should Be Paid.
You may not think of time getting dressed or time spent waiting in a security screening line as "work," but an attorney can help inform you when you should be paid -- regardless of when you clock in.
5. Negotiate (a Potentially Big) Settlement.
Not every successful wage and hour case needs to be taken to trial. Many of them settle, but usually with the help of a skillful attorney. A wage and hour attorney may be able to slip your case into a larger wage/hour suit against the employer, sometimes leading to multimillion dollar settlements.
And don't worry, your wage and hour attorney will help you under his or her payment plan as well.