Dorsey’s Labor and Employment lawyers work closely with clients in five essential areas: a) risk management–litigation avoidance and defense; b) development of effective workplace policies and procedures; c) protection of companies’ intellectual property; d) support of corporate decisions affecting the workplace; and e) traditional labor law matters.
Risk Management encompasses both avoiding and defending litigation. First, Dorsey lawyers partner with clients to (1) reduce the likelihood of litigation and (2) position our clients effectively if litigation is unavoidable. These activities include:
- Counseling clients on both the routine and unusual issues that arise in the workplace (discipline, discharge, discrimination, leave questions, theft, workplace violence, etc.).
- Working with clients to devise policies and procedures to manage the workplace (sexual harassment, arbitration, progressive discipline, workforce reductions, etc.).
- Providing training to management and the workforce that educates, improves performance and reduces the risk that workplace conduct will precipitate litigation.
Second, notwithstanding our clients’ best efforts, at times litigation is unavoidable. Our Labor and Employment Partners, with many years of trial experience, defend employers in virtually every type of judicial, administrative and arbitral forum, including federal and state court, administrative hearings, arbitrations, NLRB proceedings, etc. These activities include the following:
- Defending class action and multi-plaintiff lawsuits, relating to age, disability, race and sex and religious discrimination, state wage and hour claims, Fair Labor Standards Act claims, and other similar litigation.
- Defending individual lawsuits, whether based on federal or state statutes, or numerous common law claims typically directed at employers.
- Defending and prosecuting commercial disputes relating to the employment relationship, including claims for misappropriation of trade secret, breach of fiduciary duty, corporate raiding, breach of contract, usurpation of opportunity, and similar business torts.
- Defending and prosecuting claims for temporary, preliminary or permanent injunctive relief, often relating to violations of post-employment restrictive covenants such as non-competition agreements, non-solicitation agreements and non-disclosure agreements.
- Defending labor-related claims brought before the National Labor Relations Board or other federal and state governmental agencies.
Regardless of the type of litigation, our approach is guided by five overarching principles: a) early assessment of the merits and corresponding risks of the claim; b) exploration of early resolution where warranted; c) focus on efficiency and cost control; d) close partnering with the client to ensure coordination of all critical decisions; and e) post-case review to extrapolate lessons from the case, focusing on how those lessons should prospectively influence the client’s policies, procedures, and practices.
Adoption and Implementation of Effective Policies and Procedures
A crucial part of employment risk management involves working with our clients in the development and implementation of well-integrated, concise and understandable policies and procedures. These policies and procedures span an employee’s association with the employer, from the initial interview through termination and post-termination obligations.
We work with our clients to establish, explain and enforce policies and procedures covering:
- Interviewing and hiring.
- Leaves under the intersecting (and sometimes conflicting) statutory schemes of the ADA, FMLA and workers’ compensation laws.
- Benefits, including vacation and PTO.
- Compensation, including base pay, bonuses, commissions and stock options (including clawbacks for post-employment contract breaches).
- Discipline and discharge.
- Severance and separation.
- Obligations owed to the employer following separation.
Protecting the Company’s Assets
In these days of ever-increasing employee mobility and ever-evolving technological developments, it is especially important for employers to take appropriate steps to protect their assets. We work closely with our clients to ensure their assets (whether human resources or physical or intellectual property) are carefully protected. We help clients accomplish these goals by:
- Examining an employee’s obligations to prior employers.
- Obtaining affirmative representations regarding obligations owed to former employers.
- Adopting enforceable post-employment restrictive covenants, designed to protect employer’s legitimate business interests.
- Adopting policies and procedures designed to safeguard a company’s trade secrets, as well as other proprietary and confidential information.
- Advising current and former employees about their fiduciary and contractual obligations.
- Enforcing contracts and statutory and common law obligations.
- Crafting separation agreements for the departing employees that reinforce pre-existing obligations.
Facilitating Corporate Decisions Affecting the Workplace
A fourth central function of Dorsey’s Labor and Employment attorneys is to facilitate the corporate decisions that directly and indirectly affect the workplace. We work closely with clients to analyze carefully the impact of potential corporate changes and assist clients with the implementation of these changes. These activities include assisting clients with:
- Merger and acquisition activities (including performing due diligence on all employment and labor-related issues).
- Workforce expansions, perhaps stemming from an acquisition, a successful product launch, or other positive economic developments.
- Workforce contractions, such as ensuring that a reduction in force minimizes potential exposure under federal and state anti-discrimination statutes.
- Plant or office shutdowns, ensuring that they are WARN-compliant.
- Development and monitoring of Affirmative Action Plans and OFCCP compliance.
- Succession planning issues for closely-held corporations.
Traditional Labor Law Assistance
Dorsey’s Labor and Employment attorneys work closely with clients that have a unionized workforce or face union organizing. We:
- Assist and advise employers responding to union organizing activity.
- Work with management to structure and negotiate collective bargaining agreements (CBAs).
- Assist clients with the interpretation and enforcement of companies’ rights under the CBAs.
- Represent companies in grievance arbitrations pursuant to the CBAs.
- Represent clients before the National Labor Relations Board.
- Work with companies to ensure compliance with OSHA and other statutes designed to enhance workplace safety.
- Provide guidance to companies regarding the interplay between rights under the union contract and competing provisions of federal and state law.
In addition to these five central roles performed by our lawyers, we work closely with clients on other aspects of the employment relationship. For example, we have attorneys with specialized expertise in Immigration Law who assist clients with any and all immigration-related issues. Further, our employment attorneys work with the attorneys of Dorsey’s Employee Benefits, Tax, Intellectual Property, Health, and Corporate Departments on numerous employment law issues that touch upon those related subject areas.