We counsel our clients on all workplace issues that arise during the course of the employment relationship. Whether the issue involves a single employee or a company-wide policy, our guidance enables our clients to make informed employment decisions which maximize the benefit to the company while minimizing the prospect of costly, time-consuming litigation.
General Counsel’s offices, Human Resources professionals, and business owners routinely depend on us for innovative solutions to the difficult legal and operational problems involved in managing their employees every day. Partnering with our clients in this way is some of the most challenging and rewarding work we do.
We deal with a variety of compliance issues on a daily basis, including:
- Complex wage and hour issues such as entitlement to overtime or other premium pay, calculation of overtime pay, recordkeeping obligations, and payment of vacation or personal sick pay;
- Background checks and “Ban the Box” legislation;
- Federal and state leave entitlements;
- Reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 and similar state laws;
- Drug and alcohol testing;
- Investigating discrimination and harassment complaints;
- Rights of veterans returning to the workplace; and
- Discipline and termination.
When our clients come to us with compliance questions, we evaluate all relevant laws, risks, and work with our clients as an extension of their team to make an informed, strategic decision.
Wage and Hour Compliance (State and Federal)
One of the most frequent areas of litigation for employers is wage and hour violations. The federal government and many state governments have increased their efforts to investigate and prosecute wage and hour violations. Moreover, these cases are attractive for employees (and their lawyers) to bring because the applicable statutes cover their attorneys’ fees. In fact, Wage and Hour cases have become an exclusive focus for many plaintiffs’ firms around the country. It is therefore extremely important that all employers have legal and up-to-date wage and hour policies and that those policies are consistently enforced.
Possible violations include:
- Incorrect classification of workers as “exempt,”
- The risk of joint employer liability,
- Incorrect classification of workers as independent contractors,
- Not paying your employees at the correct frequency,
- Not providing terminated employees with the correct compensation upon their departure or within the time period required under applicable state law,
- Not maintaining proper records especially when an employee is misclassified.
- Incorrect calculation of work time and non-work time,
- Not providing employees with required break periods, and
- Not providing breaks for nursing mothers.
We help clients maintain compliance with all applicable laws to minimize claims. If our client is under investigation or has been charged by the Department of Labor or other agency, we advocate on their behalf and implement creative strategies to eliminate or minimize penalties and fines. All of this is done with an eye towards economy. If our clients have made mistakes, we tell them our candid assessment and if settlement is necessary, we strongly pursue it.
Sexual Harassment/Hostile Work Environment
We help our clients minimize their risk of sexual harassment and hostile environment related litigation through effective training, compliant employment policies, and HR counseling. For some states and localities like Connecticut, New York State, and New York City, we offer training which employers are mandated by law to provide. In other circumstances, we do the training out of prudence or as mandated in a settlement agreement or Court order.
Discrimination (age, race, gender, sex, sexual orientation, caregiver status, pregnancy, religion, etc.) We handle employment discrimination cases involving various protected classes.
Many times, employees who lose their discrimination or harassment claims still collect large damage awards on a retaliation claim because they successfully proved their employer disciplined or fired them after they complained. Employers often overlook the potential for such retaliation claims and this is a costly mistake. We help employers implement effective policies for responding to employee complaints of discrimination or harassment to minimize the risk of such claims, and defend employers against such claims.
Leave Issues (FMLA, state and local leave laws)
We defend employers in cases involving state and federal leave laws. We also advise employers on how to implement these laws appropriately.
Mergers and Acquisition Due Diligence
Whether you buy, sell or merge your business, it is important to understand all the issues and risks involved. Too often, Labor, Employment and Employee Benefits Law issues are overlooked or presumed to be unimportant. As a result, your deal may be a mistake from the start. Some of the “deal breakers” you cannot afford to miss are:
- Union contracts with successors and assigns clauses, neutrality clauses, severance clauses and/or restrictive work clauses;
- Employment contracts with golden parachutes;
- Restrictive covenants- whether key personnel can desert you for a competitor;
- Pending court room or administrative litigation;
- Business practices and/or philosophies in contrast with your own;
- The value or cost of a merged corporate structure – one entity versus separate entities;
- Turning a unionized acquisition union-free; and/or
- Whether the local community is litigious, a hot bed of union activity, a publicized target of the AFL/CIO or Change to Win, SEIU, and/or unable to support your labor needs.
With all the information, you can make better and well-informed decisions. Best of all, you will be one step closer to closing the deal. You would never merge with or acquire a company without analyzing its financial “book.” Shouldn’t you do the same with its Labor, Employment and Employee Benefits “books?” Following the merger or acquisition, we also counsel management on navigating the new operations. Oftentimes, there are growing pains for employees when there is a “new sheriff” in town. We advise employers on how to communicate policy changes to employees, work through employee morale issues, and ensure the corporate culture of the merged company is consistent with management’s expectations.
When your business expands, the obvious question is “where.” No doubt you will have many options. A site survey will tell you, from a Labor, Employment and Employee Benefits perspective, which option is best. We commonly address the following issues:
- Proximity to union halls and unionized companies;
- Whether the area/industry is targeted by any unions, the AFL-CIO, or Change to Win;
- Any local union activity;
- Union organizing history;
- Local litigation and administrative hearing statistics, e.g., discrimination claims, wage and hour claims, unfair labor practice charges; and
- Appropriate labor pools, e.g. skills, compensation expectations, diversity.