In my 30 years of practicing law, these are some of the most common questions that I have been asked. But please understand that every case has its own unique set of facts, and each case needs to be assessed based on those facts. After you read these FAQs, you may think you have a great case, a good case, a mediocre case or no case at all. However, after you review the case with an attorney, you may come to a different conclusion. That is why I believe so strongly in a free initial consultation.
Q: What do you charge for an initial consultation?
A: Nothing. I pride myself on having a free initial consultation.
Q: Do you provide consultations by phone?
A: Yes. But after our phone consultation, if you are interested in hiring me, I would ask that you come in to meet me in person via video teleconference. The meeting in person is free as well, and you are under no obligation at all to hire me. I think it is important for you to see me, and for me to see you.
Q: What are your rates if I hire you?
A: It depends on the particular case, and the particular stage of the case. For some cases I may charge a pure hourly rate; for others, I may ask for a lesser hourly rate and a percentage of any recovery; for other cases, I may ask for a flat fee and a percentage of any recovery; and for some, I may ask only for a percentage of any recovery. I would be happy to discuss the different options that I offer.
Q: Can you give me a general introduction to employment law in Arizona?
A: We live in a state where your employment is generally terminable at will. That means the company can fire you for many reasons, and you can quit whenever you want – with certain very important exceptions. For example, the company usually cannot fire you, or treat you differently, because of your race, religion, sex, pregnancy status, gender, national origin, age (over the age of 40), disability status, or family and medical leave status.
Under state law, for example, you can’t be fired because you file a workers’ compensation claim, because you serve on a jury, or because you report conduct to the company that you reasonably believe violates the law.
Employees with employment contracts, employees in unions and employees who hold government jobs often have additional protections.
Q: Can I be fired for medical reasons?
A: Under some circumstances, you may be legally protected from termination. You may have protection if your medical reason is based on a work-related injury or if you qualify for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Also, if you have a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you may be entitled to intermittent leave.
Q: Can my employer prevent me from working for a competing company, or contacting clients after my employment ends?
A: Sometimes. A covenant not to compete says that you can’t work in your chosen field. For such a covenant not to compete to be enforceable under Arizona law, the agreement must be reasonable as to duration (length), geographic scope (e.g., Maricopa County) and scope of restricted activity (e.g., you can’t sell a certain type of product). An anti-solicitation provision says that you can’t go after the company’s clients, and such an agreement, too, requires us to look at the “reasonableness” of the provision. It is better to get these types of documents reviewed before you sign them and start working, but, if that is not feasible, you should have the agreement reviewed before you leave the company or shortly after you leave the company.
Q: Does the company have to provide me with a reason for my firing? What if I am doing my job very well?
A: Generally, no. There is no statute or law which requires that the company provide an explanation. Even if you are doing a good job, the company can fire you, except if you fall into one of the exceptions to employment being terminable at will that is discussed above (e.g., race, religion, sex, gender, age, reporting unlawful conduct, etc.). However, most companies will provide some explanation. Keep a written record of the reason the company claims for firing you, as that can be very helpful.
Q: I reported wrongful conduct to the company and they fired me. Is that allowed?
A: It depends on the type of conduct you report. If you report conduct that you have reason to believe is unlawful, the company may not be able to fire you for that reason and you may have a legal claim against your former employer.
Q; I think I am about to be fired. What should I do?
A: You should speak with an attorney, if possible. If not, be polite and respectful and take notes of your exit interview or termination meeting.
Q: I was just fired. When does the company have to pay me my final paycheck? What if they don’t pay me?
A: Within seven working days of your firing or by the next regular pay period, whichever is sooner. If the company does not pay you, you may have a claim for three (3) times the amount you are owed.
Q: Am I entitled to be paid my unused vacation time after I am fired?
A: In many situations, you may be entitled to that money. But beware that sometimes a company will have a “use it or lose it policy” with regard to paying vacation pay.
Q: I work more than 40 hours per week. Should I be entitled to overtime?
A: That depends on whether you are “exempt” from the requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act or not. Often managers, office administrators and highly compensated employees are exempt, and thus not entitled to be paid overtime. But many people are not exempt and thus should be paid time and one-half for all overtime hours. Please note that the rules to determine whether you are entitled to overtime can be somewhat complicated.
Q: Am I entitled to a copy of my employee file when I leave the company?
A: Generally, no. Your employment file usually belongs to the company.
Q: Can a company just change my pay when it wants?
A: Generally, a company can change your pay on a going-forward basis, unless you have a written agreement that says otherwise. The company typically cannot change your pay for work that you have already done.
Q: What is a severance agreement? Should I have an attorney review my severance agreement?
A: These agreements are usually presented to you when your employment ends, and they generally call for you to give up any claims that you have against the company in exchange for a payment of money. Sometimes the agreements say that you can’t work for a competing company for a period of time or they say you can’t contact company clients. This could make it difficult for you to get a new job. Thus, if feasible, you should always have an attorney review the document before you sign it.
Q: Can you help me negotiate a severance agreement with my prior employer?
A: Yes. I believe in some situations a severance agreement is a reasonable and cost-effective way to resolve employment law disputes.
Other Areas Of Practice
Q: What other areas of the law do you practice in?
A: I have a strong background in many areas of litigation, including business litigation and breach of contract case. If you have an agreement with someone who is not doing what he is supposed to do, I can usually help.
Q: What if I need an attorney but you don’t practice in that area?
A: I have a wide network of other attorneys who practice in other areas of the law, and I would be happy to provide you with a referral. I do not charge any referral fee. So if you need referrals for real estate law or personal injury or any other areas, feel free to call me.