Labor and Employment

Our clients – including senior executives, human resources directors and other managers – tell us that our Labor and Employment lawyers give them peace of mind. They know we respond promptly to both the day-to-day concerns that arise as well as more complex questions – and that we do so efficiently.

HSE’s unique compensation system incentivizes our lawyers to get answers to client questions in the most efficient and cost-effective way. With industry-specific and other more complex questions, we find the lawyer with the most relevant substantive experience to address a client’s need. And when clients need on-going counsel in a specific area, they know they can always contact the HSE lawyer they need directly.

Among our clients we have public and private companies, not-for-profit and tax-exempt organizations, municipalities, academic institutions as well as health systems and hospitals. We have particular strength advising on:

  • Class Actions and Multiple Action Suits – We have handled disputes involving multiple plaintiffs with multiple claims in both state and federal courts, and our attorneys have extensive experience with respect to wage and hour class/collective actions, which are becoming increasingly commonplace. 
  • Compliance – We help employers comply with the complex web of laws that regulate the employment relationship in both the private and public sectors, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and state disability and workers’ compensation laws. In the private sector, we provide advice on minimum wage, overtime, and other employee compensation matters, employee recruiting and background checks, disability accommodation and employee work restrictions, leaves of absence and return-to-work issues, business sales, acquisitions, relocations, mass layoffs, plant closings and other reductions in force, OSHA compliance and workplace safety, EEO-1, VETS-100, LM-10, and other employer reporting obligations, and a variety of other employment law matters. For our public sector clients, we also provide advice on Civil Service Law compliance, tenure and employee discipline issues, compensatory time and other public sector wage and hour matters, PESH-related matters and various municipal law issues related to employment in the public sector.
  • Disputes with Unions and Union Laborers – We represent management in both the public and private sector in defense of actions brought by labor unions in matters relating to the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and other statute and state law claims. These actions have involved enforcement actions, stays, injunctions and appeals.
  • Employment Disputes and Litigation – Our team has a proven track record of effective and efficient defense of small, midsize, and large international employers, as well as public employers, in all types of discrimination actions, including Title VII (including claims based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin), Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), New York State Human Rights Law, sexual harassment claims, ERISA and other employee benefit claims, 42 U.S.C. Section 1981, 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Equal Pay Act, and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. We also defend against claims involving harassment and civil rights as well as claims that management violated employment contracts (wrongful discharge, non-competition, and related torts), state labor laws (wages and wage supplements), the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), executive employment and compensation contracts, and cases involving ERISA and employee benefit plans.
  • Employment Policies and Practices – We review management policies and communications for compliance with anti-discrimination and other laws affecting the employment relationship, and we prepare and review employment applications, employee handbooks and affirmative action plans and procedures.
  • Labor Relations – We advise on all aspects of collective bargaining, grievance and arbitration processes, contract administration, and strikes and work stoppages. We are experienced in handling proceedings in the private sector under the National Labor Relations Act and Railway Labor Act, and in the public sector before the New York Public Employment Relations Board. We provide legal advice and assistance during union organizing, picketing, decertification, and other circumstances affecting management’s interaction with organized labor.
  • Workplace Training – We tailor training programs for your organization and develop each one to address your specific issues and goals. Our presentations cover a wide range of topics, such as background checks and criminal convictions analysis, drafting employment-related agreements (including confidentiality and non-compete agreements), federal and state wage and hour laws, (including classification issues), harassment and discrimination prevention, hiring and recruiting, employee discipline and discharge, substance abuse policies, vacation and medical leave, procedures to address workplace violence and hazard communications, and investigations — conducting internal and responding to governmental, among others.

What We See on the Horizon

Contact our HSE Labor and Employment team for our latest insights about the following:

  • Harassment claims and risk avoidance – As media attention focuses on sexual harassment claims, employers should take steps to assure they comply with New York law on sexual harassment avoidance. Our Labor and Employment team – informed by the extensive experience of litigators who have defended against harassment claims – provides training for managers and human resources professionals to assure compliance and minimize the risk of claims.

Transactional Savvy Enables Private Equity Firm to Secure Labor Cost Savings and Operational Flexibility as Part of Acquisition

Where we started:  A private equity firm came to us for counsel when it sought to acquire a division of a multinational manufacturer with operations in multiple U.S. states. Among the firm’s concerns was the possible impact of decades old union contracts on the target company’s cost and operations going forward. Was it possible, the firm wanted to know, to find a way to maintain or reduce labor costs while at the same time achieving greater flexibility with business operations?

Our strategy:  Members of the HSE Labor and Employment team worked with the company’s vice-president of human resources and operations teams to gather information and collaborate on a plan for the divestment of the company and its acquisition by our private equity client. We examined the entire universe of issues including union contracts, executive compensation and employee benefits. We later helped the company to renegotiate the union contracts.

The outcome:  The company ended up with materially less burdensome collective bargaining agreements, which resulted in greater operational flexibility. In addition, the contracts we negotiated with the union created a simpler template for periodic, streamlined renegotiations in the future. We continue to advise the company on labor and employment matters.


Strategic Approach Reduces Compliance Risk and Streamlines Human Resources Operations

Where we started:  All of our clients – from small, family owned businesses to Fortune 100 employers – face day-to-day risks in their administration of employment policies, including employment applications and offers of employment. State and federal laws stipulate when and how employers may solicit information from job candidates, how and when background checks can be undertaken (by the employer itself or a vendor), and what liabilities the employer faces if it fails to adhere to the law and related regulations.

Our strategy:  We counsel  legal and human resources departments, as well as C-suite executives, on policies and procedures that will assure that there are no missteps in their hiring or employment processes or, if missteps have already occurred, how to correct them while minimizing ongoing risk. We get to know their business – how it is structured and how they wish for it to operate – and tailor policies and procedures to minimize disruption of current practices while assuring adherence to laws and regulations. We advise employers on the proper documents and forms to use, or how to bring their existing documents and forms into compliance with applicable law. We help them assure that the vendor they have hired for background checks is using the proper procedures and documentation and is providing indemnification – so as not to expose them, unknowingly, to liability for the vendor’s mistakes.

The outcome:  Employers working with our Labor and Employment team know that we continuously monitor changes in laws and regulations at both the state and federal levels and that we can advise them on how to treat all types of sensitive information – criminal record information, credit information, salary information, social media content, medical record information – while maintaining good relations with current and prospective employees.

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Disclaimer

This website presents only general information not intended as legal advice. Although we encourage calls, letters and emails from prospective clients, please keep in mind that merely contacting Harter Secrest & Emery LLP (HSE) does not establish an attorney-client relationship between us. Confidential information should not be sent to HSE until you have been notified in writing by HSE that a formal attorney-client relationship has been established. Information sent to us before then may not be treated as confidential by HSE or the court.

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