Paralegal Careers in Employment Law

Labor law—often referred to as employment law—is a branch of contract law that covers issues arising from the relationship between employer and employee. From wages and hours to employment discrimination and the regulation of working conditions, labor law covers a wide gamut of issues, making paralegals with experience in this specialty a commodity for the lawyers they work for.

Just a few of the issues covered in labor law include:

  • Wage and hour disputes
  • Employer/employee rights and responsibilities
  • Workplace investigations
  • Disciplinary action and termination
  • Compliance with state and federal laws
  • Severance agreements
  • Unemployment compensation claims
  • Workplace harassment
  • Employment discrimination (race, gender, religion, age, national origin)
  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • Contract violations
  • Wrongful discharge
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Job Duties and Responsibilities of Paralegals in Labor Law

The role of the paralegal in labor law is just as multifaceted as the practice itself. Similar to other paralegals, labor law paralegals are responsible for preparing basic pleadings, drafting correspondence and other legal documents, filing court documents, and performing similar administrative duties.

However, labor law paralegals are also responsible for performing the following job duties:

Employment Litigation

  • Conducting initial review of employee claim files
  • Creating detailed claim file summaries
  • Assisting lawyers during arbitration and mediation processes
  • Drafting settlement documents

Employment Non-Litigation

  • Drafting employee plans for lawyer review
  • Working with lawyers, plan sponsors, plan administrators, and trusteess regarding the drafting of employee plans, including:
    • Stock bonus plans
    • Profit sharing plans
    • Purchasing pension plans
    • Trust agreements
    • IRA plans
    • Annuity plans
    • Employee stock ownership plans
    • Life and health insurance plans
    • Workers compensation plans
  • Assisting lawyers with the preparation and filing of documents and reports required by federal, state, and local laws
  • Preparing and reviewing contracts, including standard employee contracts

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

  • Investigating discrimination claims under federal or state statutes
  • Assisting lawyers during trial, arbitration, grievance hearings, and other formal hearings
  • Assisting employers with drafting proposed policies and procedures

National Relations Labor Board (NLRB)

  • Assisting attorneys and employers with materials related to the National Labor Relations Act, including responding to petitions or demands from a union
  • Assisting employers with unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB
  • Assisting attorneys with documents related to the preparation for NLRB trials/arbitrations
  • Responding to union information and NLRB requests
  • Assisting employers with handling problems during strikes, including draft strike manuals and contingency plans

Department of Labor and Employment

  • Assisting lawyers with unemployment insurance/appeals process
  • Assisting lawyers with the issuance of subpoenas, witness preparation, and hearing preparation

General Case Administration Functions

  • Acting as liaison between lawyers and:
    • Benefits coordinators
    • HR professionals
    • Courts
    • Clients
    • Investigators
    • Governmental agencies
  • Preparing for assisting at trials, administrative hearings, arbitrations, negotiation sessions, and internal proceedings, including:
    • Preparing and maintaining trial exhibits
    • Scheduling appointments related to mediations, arbitrations, and administrative hearings
    • Preparing trial exhibits
    • Scheduling witnesses
    • Coordinating witness preparation and testimony
    • Performing research
  • Drafting pleadings, claims, contracts, and other documents
  • Documenting and tracking case documents
  • Preparing and scheduling depositions

State-Specific Competency Examinations for Paralegals in Labor Law

A few states also offer state-specific competency examinations.

Paralegal courses and certification programs in labor allow practicing paralegals to advance their knowledge and competency in this area of law. Many of these programs are offered through online delivery, thus making them a convenient option for busy professionals.

Topics covered in these programs include:

  • Differences between employment from independent contracting
  • Torts brought against employers
  • Discrimination in hiring
  • Accommodation in working conditions
  • Unfair labor practices
  • Labor management relations
  • Disability discrimination and accommodations
  • Labor organizations
  • Structures of the National Labor Relations Act and Railway Labor Act
  • Constitutional protections against discrimination

Salary Expectations for Paralegals in Labor Law

According to a 2014 national survey of paralegals conducted by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), paralegals in employee benefits earned an annual, average salary of $59,625, while their colleagues specializing in employee labor law earned a similar annual salary of $58,538.

Both of these paralegal specializations earned more than the national average for paralegals in 2014, which was $58,410.

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