Our Practice Areas
We give thoughtful, honest direction to our clients about the risks and rewards of litigation, carefully considering their needs and desires as well as the legal landscape and possibilities for success. We have successfully represented employees in single-client, multiple-client, and class-action litigation. Our experienced attorneys provide employees with aggressive, effective, and knowledgeable representation in a full range of employment law practice areas.
Sex discrimination and harassment
It is unlawful to discriminate against an employee or applicant for employment because of his/her sex in regard to hiring, termination, promotion, compensation, job training, or any other term, condition, or privilege of employment. The statute that prohibits this conduct, Title VII, also prohibits employment decisions based on stereotypes and assumptions about abilities, traits, or the performance of individuals on the basis of sex. Title VII prohibits both intentional discrimination and neutral job policies that disproportionately exclude individuals on the basis of sex and that are not job related.
Sexual harassment includes practices ranging from direct requests for sexual favors to workplace conditions that create a hostile environment for persons of either gender. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) "unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment."
It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against any employee or job applicant because of his or her race or color in regard to hiring, termination, promotion, compensation, job training, or any other term, condition, or privilege of employment. Title VII also prohibits employment decisions based on stereotypes and assumptions about abilities, traits, or the performance of individuals of certain racial groups. Both intentional discrimination and neutral job policies that disproportionately exclude minorities are illegal.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide qualified individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from the full range of employment-related opportunities available to others. For instance, it prohibits employers from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. Employers are required to provide “reasonable accommodation(s)” to disabled employees or applicants, including making existing facilities readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities, restructuring jobs or modifying work schedules and modifying equipment, training materials and other policies to accommodate the disabled person.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age. The ADEA applies to employers with 20 or more employees and its protections apply to both employees and job applicants. Under the ADEA, it is illegal to discriminate against a person because of his or her age with respect to any term, condition, or privilege of employment – including hiring, firing, promotion, layoff, compensation, benefits, job assignments, and training.
Retaliation and whistle-blowing
The same laws that protect employees from discrimination also protect them from retaliation after they have protested or complained of discrimination or participated in an investigation regarding discrimination. It is your legal right to make complaints about discrimination, harassment and other unlawful conduct you face in the workplace. If your employer retaliates against you — by firing you, harassing you, stripping you of your responsibilities, refusing to give you deserved raises, issuing unwarranted discipline, etc. — then you can state a claim for retaliation.
Whistle-blowing is also a protected activity. A whistleblower is someone who reports illegal conduct in the workplace, who “blows the whistle” on the employer and/or his co-workers by informing governmental authorities. If you report environmental hazards, file a complaint with the Labor Commission (which enforces wage and hour laws), protest violations of workplace safety laws, expose discriminatory conduct, disclose Occupational Safety and Health Act abuses or alert authorities regarding other activity which violate civil or criminal law, then you may not be retaliated against for speaking out.
Wage and hour claims
Federal and state laws set out in detail the minimum wage every worker is entitled to receive. These laws also identify which workers are entitled to receive overtime pay for working longer hours. Unfortunately, and often unintentionally, some employers fail to comply with these legal requirements.
Common violations of the law related to employment wages include:
• Not paying the correct minimum wage.
• Not paying overtime.
• Making employees work "off-the-clock," and not paying them for it.
• Refusing to pay terminated employees earned commissions, unused vacation pay, bonuses or other fringe benefits
• Deducting for wages paid in goods, such as meals or food.
The wage and hour laws are meant to protect employees, and to ensure that their employers treat them with fairness in terms of payment for work done.
We represent individuals, typically executives and professionals, in negotiating and honoring employment agreements. Such agreements are used to clarify and secure an employee's expectations regarding job security, compensation and benefits, and related issues. Employment agreements typically involve the following: the term of employment, including extensions or renewals; the employee's position, title, duties, and responsibilities; compensation, including salary and bonuses; benefits (e.g., medical, dental, disability, and life insurance, and retirement benefits); grounds for early termination by the employer (e.g., "with cause") or by the employee (e.g., "for good reason"); and severance benefits upon termination of employment.
Employers often insist that employees sign contracts that include confidentiality agreements or non-compete clauses that can limit an employee’s options, especially if the employee chooses or is forced to leave the company. We counsel individuals who wish to seek employment in their field without risking legal action based on a non-competition agreement with a former employer. We also represent individuals who are faced with litigation brought by a former employer alleging that the individual violated a non-compete agreement.
Severance agreements are more and more common when a company terminates a person’s employment. Before signing anything, it is important for an employee to consult legal counsel to review the agreements to determine if the agreement is fair and reasonable and negotiate new terms if necessary.
We help terminated employees understand the conditions of a severance agreement, evaluate the severance benefits, ascertain ways the severance package might be improved, determine what leverage the employee might have, and develop a plan of action. While the objective is typically to gain a longer or larger severance payment, there are other critical issues to consider. These may include deferring the effective date of termination, assuring maximum payment for vacation and other leaves, obtaining full or partial bonus payments, bridging to vesting dates for stock options or retirement benefits, extending employer-paid medical benefits, securing consultation payments (where and if applicable), and limiting the scope of any non-competition clause.