You were wrongfully fired. You know it, but you can’t seem to find an attorney to take your case. You get a few referrals, make a few calls, but no attorney will take your case. But you can’t let it go, you feel wronged and want to seek justice.
Why can’t you find an attorney?
Most attorneys who represent workers (including HKM) take cases on a contingency fee basis. This means, we don’t charge by the hour. Instead, our fee is contingent on whether we help you recover any money. If you lose, we don’t get paid for our services. If you win, we get paid by taking a fixed percentage of the money you win.
This is good for workers because a worker can seek justice without the risk of owing a whopping legal bill after losing her case. But it also means that the attorneys will do an upfront evaluation of your chances of winning. Different attorneys have different appetites for risk, so each attorney decides for herself how “strong” your case needs to be for her to take your case.
In summary, there is good news and bad news.
- The good news is, you won’t be asked for a several thousand dollar retainer and expected to sign an agreement to pay $200-$400 per hour as the attorney’s fee.
- The bad news is the attorney might not see your case as quite the slam dunk that you do, and may decline to represent you.
If an attorney turns you down, is your case a loser?
Not necessarily. Attorneys are human and don’t always catch everything in an initial consultation. If you’ve been turned down once, or even twice, don’t give up just yet. Keep calling attorneys. But if you continue to be turned down, it doesn’t mean your case is a total loser. You may have a case, but because of what the law requires to prove your case, it might be weak.
It is very rare (very) that an employer blatantly discriminates against a worker without any pretext. Most often, discrimination happens subtly and is hidden behind pretext.
For example, a worker is fired two months after she announces at work that she is pregnant and planning to take maternity leave. She believes she was fired because of her pregnancy. But her boss claims she was fired because she was late for a 3rd time that month.
As you can see, a case typically involves the worker’s evidence of discrimination vs. the employer’s evidence of legitimacy.
Attorneys understand this battle of the evidence, so to speak, and are evaluating the likelihood that your evidence will prevail. You may have a case, but if your chance of winning is only 30%, then you are trying to find an attorney willing to take a 70% chance that she won’t get paid for her time and professional services. That tends to be a tough sale.
What factors may make your case weak?
The factors that go into whether a case is desirable or undesirable for attorneys are as varied as the cases themselves. But here are several reasons that attorneys might be reluctant to get involved.
- You are still employed by the offending employer.
- You waited too long and your case, even a strong one, is past the statute of limitations.
- You don’t have any documents to back up your version of the story.
- You signed timecards or other documents that contradict your story.
- Your social media posts contradicts your version of the story.
- You got another job right away and haven’t really lost any wages because of the unfair firing.
- You said things or took actions that contradict your version of the story.
- Your coworkers are your only witnesses and they still work for your former employer.
- The reason for firing you was really unfair, but not obviously unlawful
Read Unfair vs. unlawful
- You signed a valid release.
- You were fired after a clear violation of company policy, even if you suspect there were other motives.
You don’t have to give up.
Just because you cannot find an attorney, you don’t have to give up. You can file a complaint with the federal or local agency that enforces civil rights laws in the workplace. To learn how to file a simple complaint and represent yourself.