Labor lawyers are often associated with unions, a perception that's fed by the depiction of the involvement with strikes on the news. While it's certainly the case that unionized groups like teachers and police officers do frequently retain labor law services firms as counsel, they're not the only folks who seek such counsel. Employers also often choose to hire labor lawyers. Similarly, the field often overlaps with employment law. If you're curious what such an attorney can do for you, let's take a look at some of their most common types of cases.
Contracts and Agreements
Generally speaking, labor lawyers focus on specific trades where people work under the terms of negotiated contracts. Not too surprisingly, this means they are often present as contracts are hammered out, agreements are signed, and strikes are threatened or enacted. The goal of attorneys in these situations is to achieve favorable terms for their clients while trying to arrive at labor peace as quickly as possible.
Most unions make sure that dismissal or discipline of their members is handled in a highly structured manner. There is usually a set number of warnings for infractions in the contract, and there also tends to be a process for escalating such warnings. If there's a dispute over what types of discipline are allowed or whether a particular employee can be dismissed, that's usually when the labor lawyers step in for both the union and the employer. Some unions also offer lawyers who assist when criminal charges or lawsuits are brought against members in regard to work they've performed under contract.
A point where employment lawyers and labor lawyers start separating into two different fields of law is when we get into at-work discrimination. Many employment lawyers take on non-union disputes. In other words, it's common for an employment lawyer to not also be a labor lawyer. Likewise, some attorneys do specialize in both fields of law. It's not unheard of for a union to retain counsel from two different firms that address different sides of the coin. Some firms just do both.
Employment law covers a wide range of matters. For example, if someone feels they were passed over for a promotion based on factors like age, race, gender identity, or religion, that's when an employment lawyer becomes valuable. Questions about unfair treatment or workplace environments also tend to fall into this category.