“Give me a child until he is seven, and I will show you the man,” said Aristotle. Swap the word ‘man’ for ‘woman’ and you’ve got Durham attorney Shayla Richberg.
“I’ve been speaking up on issues that people don’t want to talk about since I’ve was 5 years old. Every issue that you can think of is touched by some aspect of the law,” said Richberg. “I am a black woman. I am an underdog. My clients and I are underdogs. But that does not mean I will be intimidated, or will I let my clients be intimidated.”
Richberg Law was launched in 2015. Her practice includes employment law, workers’ compensation, and real estate closings. “Restoring Visions and Protecting Legacies” is the firm’s slogan. “I want my clients to know that I am not just concerned about the short-term gains of litigation. I’m concerned about the overall gains to be attained in the long term,” explained Richberg.
A native of Greensboro, NC, Richberg received a Bachelor of Arts from UNC. She took a gap year to serve as the service-learning coordinator at the University of Saint Mary as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer in Leavenworth, Kansas. “I worked with organizations to eradicate poverty, on both the local and national level,” said Richberg.
She returned to Durham and earned her Juris Doctor from NCCU School of Law, graduating at the top of her class. Richberg did 500 hours of community service work while in law school and received the N.C. Bar Pro Bono Certificate.
Richberg has been involved with N.C. Legal Aid, the Civil Litigation Clinic, and the Foreclosure Defense Clinic. In 2015, she received an NAACP Humanitarian of the Year Award for representing protesters arrested during Moral Mondays in Raleigh. “It takes a village, and everyone should find a way to pay it forward, so I do what I can,” explained Richberg. She is the current president of the Durham County Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division.
‘RACIAL TRAUMA’ CASES
Some of Richberg’s employment cases involve discrimination arising from workers’ compensation claims. “People may not experience discrimination on the job until they are injured on the job. Many employees are misinformed about their rights to pursue compensation as a result of an injury on the job and when compensation is pursued they face discrimination and are often made to leave their job as a result of settling their case matter,” she explained.
“Retaliation can start when the employee does not accept the settlement offer and wants to keep working and continue fighting to have their case accepted by the Industrial Commission,” she added. “I can help the client with both the employment side, and the workers’ comp side.”
With North Carolina being an “at-will” employment state, Richberg sees incidents of what she calls “racial trauma.”
“Minority employees who have been in corporate America for many years go through mental stress, trying to determine, ‘Is it me or am I really being over scrutinized or harassed in the workplace?’ A lot of discrimination is not overt. What’s more likely is they give you work assignments and micromanage you. It’s all about power when it comes to racial equity. My first job is for my client to feel validated and for them to say, ‘Thank you for not making me think I’m crazy.’”
Richberg says she sees a lot of cases involving clients returning to work from pregnancy leave. “Sometimes women coming back to work are not provided adequate space in the workplace to breast pump during the day. There are laws requiring an employer to provide a clean and reasonable private space for women to pump breast milk. In the bathroom, is not it.”
A STRONG-WILLED ADVOCATE
“I’m going to tell you the truth about your case, and I’m not going to shy away from a set of facts that are not perfectly put together,” said Richberg. “I feel like I’ve done my job when a client trusts me from beginning to end and can let me do my job.
“I want my clients to smile and feel validated,” she added. “I am a strong-willed advocate that is motivated to working alongside my clients to be a voice to help break down barriers to achieve desired results.”