Tips And FAQs
At The Wolcott Law Firm LLC, we believe information is key to every scenario. Please see our practical tips and frequently asked questions below. If you still have questions, contact us today. Call our Indianapolis office at 317-983-6425 to set up a $10 initial consultation.
- Unemployment compensation hearings – what do I need to do to prepare?
- When, if at all, do I need to hire an attorney?
- Is there a state or federal agency I can contact about an employment issue?
- Should I file a charge with the EEOC or ICRC?
- How much information should I share with the EEOC or ICRC?
- Is participating in EEOC or ICRC mediation a good idea?
- Do I need an attorney to represent me at the EEOC Mediation?
- The EEOC or ICRC has sent me notice it closed its investigation – what now?
- I don’t think I have enough evidence – do I?
- Can I make a tape recording of my employer?
- My employer did not pay me all the wages I am entitled to when I was let go – what now?
- Filing a lawsuit – when is the right time?
- I want to contact the press – will that help my case?
- Social Media
Unemployment compensation hearings – what do I need to do to prepare?
Hearings are scheduled when either you or your employer timely appeals a decision of the deputy assigned to review your case. You have limited time to appeal a decision denying you benefits, and the deadline is stated on the letter you receive notifying you of the deputy’s decision. If you are not sure what your deadline is, you should immediately contact the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, also known as WorkOne.
Once an appeal is filed, you will receive a notice that sets the date for your hearing. You should review all materials you receive carefully. They will tell you the date and time of your hearing, whether it is in person or by phone, and various rights you have (e.g. right to have counsel represent you, right to submit documents as evidence, right to request witnesses be made to appear). Many of these rights have strict time limits, so you need to know these.
At the hearing, the judge will take testimony under oath and render a decision given the facts presented by both parties. These decisions typically come down to which witnesses seem the most credible. If you have been fired, the employer will have to prove they let you go for good cause. If you quit, you will have to prove that a reasonable person facing your specific circumstances would also quit. There are sometimes other issues, and they will be identified in the letter you receive.
With careful preparation, you can win these hearings without the assistance of an attorney. However, my experience tells me two things. First, winning benefits when you have quit your employment is a difficult task and preparing for these hearings requires special attention. Second, while you (or the employer) can appeal the decision of the judge to an entity called the Review Board, these progressive appeals become more difficult to win. I often tell clients that the hearing is the last best chance to get or protect your benefits.
When, if at all, do I need to hire an attorney?
This is always a difficult question. Involving an attorney in an employment dispute can sometimes frustrate your efforts to work through problems with your employer. Some employers offer internal appeals procedures for unfavorable decisions. You should carefully review your company policy manual or contact human resources to see if they have such a policy.
I personally believe that, under the right arrangement, an attorney can best protect your rights. Too many times individuals I speak with have already sent emails, posted messages on Facebook, or filed a charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or completed a questionnaire including information that ultimately hurts them. Most of us tend to believe that detailed explanations to your employer as to why you believe they are at fault will help the situation. Oftentimes, these statements can compromise otherwise good claims. With our $10 initial consultation, you risk nothing to ensure that whatever steps you take won’t compromise your rights.
Is there a state or federal agency I can contact about an employment issue?
The answer is probably. If you believe you are a victim of discrimination under certain federal laws, you are required to file a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Other laws require you to file a complaint with a state or federal agency. Others still permit you to file your case immediately in federal or state court. There are a lot of variables to consider, and we would be happy to help guide you through these obstacles.
Should I file a charge with the EEOC or ICRC?
The EEOC is the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commissions, also sometimes referred to as the Commission. Congress created this agency to investigate certain types of allegations of conduct made unlawful by federal law. The ICRC is the Indiana Civil Rights Commission, and it investigates certain claims of discriminatory conduct under Indiana law.
Recovery under the Indiana statue is more limited than under federal law. If you are not sure where you should file a charge, we would be happy to tell you.
How much information should I share with the EEOC or ICRC?
I believe the old adage that less is more applies. Certainly, if you do not give these entities all the information you have, it could frustrate their investigation of your charge. Nevertheless, the best approach is providing controlled information in an easy-to-digest format. If you understand your claims, can organize your evidence well and have a good grasp of what you have to prove to persuade these agencies to make a finding favorable to you, it may not be a bad risk to share more information with them. If you are uncertain about any of these issues, I believe it is best to contact an attorney to discuss your claims in depth.
Is participating in EEOC or ICRC mediation a good idea?
My opinion is an unequivocal and resounding YES. Going to mediation gives you a chance to explain why you believe your civil rights were violated in a confidential setting. Because of the confidentiality associated with this process, things you say cannot be used against you later on. Moreover, there is the possibility of reaching a resolution you can live with. If you don’t, you at least get to hear more about why your employer made the decision it did. The only cost you have is your time preparing for and attending the mediation. No one can make you take a result you don’t like.
Do I need an attorney to represent me at the EEOC Mediation?
It is not required, but it could be a mistake, as your former employer will likely have legal representation. Employment attorneys know the law, can apply the facts of your situation to what you need to prove, and argue persuasively your case to your (former) employer. The EEOC mediator can tell you about the process and sometimes share with you the strengths or weaknesses of your case. However, you need to know they are not your representative and are working for both sides.
I believe it is better to have legal representation at mediation so that you have someone you can share ideas with and who can give you an objective legal opinion about the merits of your case. The strategy you should apply is to make an arrangement with your counsel of choice to minimize the cost of representation. You should ask about the available fee arrangements you can enter into, including contingency, hourly and flat fee agreements. Each of these has benefits and risks, and you have a right as a client to know what these are and make a decision that is best for you.
The EEOC or ICRC has sent me notice it closed its investigation — what now?
When you receive a notice of finding (ICRC) or dismissal and notice of suit rights (EEOC), it means the investigation was completed and a decision was made. Oftentimes, the finding is that the agency cannot conclude that your legal rights were violated. These notices trigger deadlines to file your suit in court. Missing the deadline means you will later be prohibited from bringing suit in federal court.
The first thing you should do is contact the EEOC or ICRC to ask for a copy of their investigatory file. Under federal and state law, you are entitled to receive copies of these files, subject to redaction of inter-office correspondence or legal opinions. These records can help clarify your situation and provide insight as to what the company’s position is regarding your claims. Moreover, these records can help an attorney review your case and render a legal opinion as to the strengths and weaknesses of your claims. If you would like a copy of a template letter you can use to request these files, please contact us. Please understand that these files can take 30 days or more to obtain, so you should act shortly after you receive the notice.
I don’t think I have enough evidence — do I?
I hear this many times. Evidence takes many forms. Let me provide an example for you. When two people get in a car accident, there is oftentimes a dispute as to who is responsible for the accident. Sometimes, forensic evidence can resolve the matter by studying tire tracks and other evidence at the scene of the crime. However, if none of this evidence is available, the matter gets resolved based upon the testimony of what happened — not opinions, but factual observations — by the two drivers. The same is true in employment matters. What you witnessed and have first-hand knowledge about may be enough to prove your claims.
Can I make a tape recording of my employer?
In Indiana, the current law (as of 11/27/2015) is that as long as one person knows a conversation is being recorded, it is legal to make a recording in most situations. Of course, the person who is making the recording knows that the recording is being made. Therefore, you can legally make a recording.
The more complicated question is whether making the tape is a good idea. Realize that what you say will also be recorded, and it might capture statements you might have wished you did not make. Moreover, it is possible that the recording does not capture statements you were hoping the other person might make. Irrespective of what is said, the tape is arguably evidence that you must protect and preserve. You should talk to an attorney before erasing any tape, video or digital recording you make.
My employer did not pay me all the wages I am entitled to when I was let go — what now?
In Indiana, the process to collect unpaid wages depends upon how you were separated from work. The next question is whether you were denied wages or not. Sometimes the issue is easy, like when you work 30 hours and don’t get your last paycheck. Other issues — payment of unused vacation time, bonuses and commissions — are more complicated. The good news is that experienced attorneys can answer these questions pretty quickly during a $10 initial consultation. If you do have a claim, both federal and state law provide for recovery of attorneys’ fees. There is no risk to you to call an attorney and explore your options.
Filing a lawsuit — when is the right time?
Each law has its own statutory limit as to when a case must be filed in either federal or state court. You should research what your deadline is and make note on a place where you will not overlook it. If you hire an attorney, they will track your deadlines and ensure they are not missed.
I want to contact the press — will that help my case?
I would propose that getting the press or public involved rarely leads to a favorable result. If you think about how you would react if someone accused you of breaking the law on TV or in the paper, I suspect you would develop an appreciation for how an employer might respond. My personal opinion is that you will galvanize a company’s desire to defend itself and prove your claims false. As this doesn’t further your interest or make settlement opportunities more likely, I believe that contacting the press is a poor risk in the vast majority of cases.
With the advent and proliferation of the internet and social media, the methods attorneys use to acquire evidence to support their client’s claims has grown immensely. If you use your social media to discuss employment-related matters, you are unwittingly providing your employer’s attorney keys (potentially) to your email account, your Facebook account and other social and professional internet affiliations. I believe you are best served to separate your work life from these media to protect your personal privacy.