Lawyer Fees in Illinois Overtime and Wage Lawsuits
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Lawyers in overtime and unpaid wage cases can be paid a couple of different ways. Some attorneys charge a contingency fee, where you only pay if you win. A contingency fee is a percentage of the amount you are awarded, usually about 1/3, and is agreed upon at the start of a case. Or, a lawyer in an unpaid wage case may charge hourly (anywhere from $200 to $300 per hour is a typical range).
The type of fee depends on the amount of your case. Because of the risk involved in contingency arrangements (the lawyer gets nothing if you lose), contingency fees are generally used for larger cases, where the reward is high. For example, if you are owed $30,000.00 in overtime, your lawyer would get $10,000.00 if you win. This reward balances out the lawyer's risk of possibly getting nothing.
For a smaller case – maybe $3,000.00 in overtime or wages – a lawyer likely will choose to charge hourly. If they charge $200 an hour for 10 hours of work, a $2,000.00 guaranteed hourly fee would be more appealing to them than a $1,000.00 contingency fee. Please note that if you do sue your employer and win the case they usually have to pay for your attorney's fees.
You may be wondering why anyone would pay a lawyer $2,000.00 to recover $3,000.00 in money owed, as the client would be left with only $1,000.00 if they win. If the amount of money you are owed is small – too small to make a lawsuit worth your while – you may want to consider a class action lawsuit.
In a class action suit, a group of people in similar circumstances (in this case other employees) sue together in a single case. For example, if you are owed $500, it would not make sense to pay a lawyer to sue your employer – the fee would exceed the amount you're owed. On the other hand, if there were 30 employees who were each owed $500, you could join together and sue your employer for $15,000.00.
The lawyer in a class action suit is usually paid on a contingency basis. The percentage is determined by the judge and is usually based on the amount of work the case requires. The fee is paid out of the amount won at trial or in settlement, or paid separately by the defendant (your employer).
In unpaid wage cases – individual or class action – your lawyer can ask the judge to order your employer to pay for your attorney's fees and costs. This way you can keep all the money you were owed.
If your employer owes you money or you want to know if they are violating the law please contact us at (312) 346-5320. Your call is completely confidential and we will do whatever we can to point you in the right direction.