Inexpensive Access to an Employment Lawyer
By Mark Swartz
Certain work-related issues require good legal advice. Like what to do if getting harassed. And how to handle things when subject to wrongful termination.
Basic answers to a number of these questions are available free online. A problem may arise, however, when personalized counsel is needed. Employment lawyers can easily cost hundreds of dollars per hour.
Naturally people to wonder if there are less expensive arrangements. Several may be available to you depending on your situation.
Common Issues Where Employment Lawyers Can Help
Certain legal matters are unique to the workplace. They should be handled by experts in employment law, not just by general counsel. Included are…
- Irregularities in hiring and firing
- Sexual misconduct by colleagues or bosses
- Non-compete clauses and how they’re enforced on employees
- Sick leave, workplace injury compensation or health and safety issues
- Constructive dismissal and a range of employee rights
Option 1: Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)
Many employers make EAP services available to staff. Those confidential programs can usually be reached by phone, email or website.
Increasingly EAP providers offer several hours of legal advice for free. After that a referral might be presented for ongoing counsel, but at the user’s expense.
Try to avoid contacting the EAP on equipment owned by the employer. Privacy can be ensured that way.
Option 2: Initial Consultation With A Qualified Legal Practitioner
Even lawyers have to market their services. As such, some advertise a free (or reduced fee) first ½ hour to hour. During that time they will ask about the facts of a case.
It may only take an hour or two of advice to resolve a matter. If not, at least it gives an idea of what might be involved to pursue the case, and which steps to take next.
Not sure who to call? Get in touch with your Provincial Law Society. Most offer a Referral Service to local lawyers or paralegals with specific expertise. Think of it as an attorney search. That Law Society might also connect you to the specialist for a free or low-rate half hour.
Option 3: Subsidized Legal Advice
When a person’s household income is low, they may qualify for inexpensive legal representation. Legal Aid is for those who fall below their provincially-set revenue level. They may be entitled to a substantial amount of time with a lawyer at a highly reduced rate.
A lot of people earn too much for Legal Aid yet not enough to afford a lawyer ongoingly. Some provinces address this with tiered-rate practitioners. In Ontario, for instance, a listing of such legal authorities exists at JusticeNet.ca. It catalogues lawyers, paralegals and mediators who voluntarily reduce their fees based on the client’s income.
Option 4: Pro Bono (Free) Advice
Various provinces and cities have legal clinics that give free advice. Often they are staffed by law students or recent law grads. They may be overseen by experienced lawyers who are giving back to society.
Sometimes they ask for proof of income to screen out higher earning clients. If not, anyone can access the services if their legal needs qualify. Use a search engine and type in ‘pro bono employment law advice’ along with the name of your province.
Option 5: Published Material
Simpler legal questions may already be answered online. Monster.ca has several dozen such articles. They range from overtime laws in Canada to knowing your rights if forced to dress sexy at work.
Another recognized source of free workplace law material is LegalLine.ca. It has a special section for employment law questions and answers.
Mind you, articles are meant for a broad audience. To get individualized advice for complex legal concerns, consult an actual employment lawyer.
Now you know how to do so without breaking the bank.