Patterson Belknap's Employment Group protects employers' interests through litigation, sensitive internal investigations, and counseling designed to help organizations achieve their business goals while minimizing legal, compliance and reputational risk. Our employment lawyers are attuned to the unique legal challenges that different types of employers face, whether they are major corporations, large educational institutions, or leading nonprofit organizations.
Our employment lawyers have had very successful results litigating matters under the full range of federal, state, and local employment laws. Based on our work for numerous colleges and universities, Fortune 50 companies, and mid-size businesses, as well as over 300 not-for-profit organizations, we have a deep understanding and appreciation of diverse employment issues in various industries. The breadth and depth of our industry experience enables our lawyers to promptly investigate and analyze a case, develop a strategy for obtaining optimal results, and provide clients with an early case assessment to avoid surprises down the line. Our attorneys also regularly conduct internal corporate investigations to prevent and address claims arising out of the #MeToo movement; claims of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation; and claims arising under whistleblower policies. We work closely with boards of directors in connection with employment agreements, transitions and terminations for company executives, in addition to whistleblower allegations and related investigations. We also regularly provide assistance when employers are faced with gross misconduct by their employees, including employee fraud and theft. Our active counseling practice helps employers ensure that they are in compliance with workplace laws and minimize the legal risks that accompany sensitive individual or group employment decisions.
Our employment litigators regularly appear before federal, state, and local courts, as well as administrative agencies. We have successfully defended clients in class action and other multi-plaintiff suits involving anti-discrimination laws, wage and hour laws, and ERISA. In cases involving complex employee benefits issues, our employment litigators work closely with our employee benefits lawyers. We also litigate—often in fast-paced cases involving preliminary injunctions—disputes involving noncompete agreements and trade secrets. Other claims our employment attorneys defend on behalf of employers include charges of breach of employment contract, workplace defamation, invasion of privacy, and wrongful discharge.
Examples of recent Patterson Belknap employment litigation matters include:
- Successfully securing a summary judgment victory for the world’s largest nonprofit animal hospital in litigation arising out of employee terminations in connection with a claim brought by a former employee under with Equal Pay Act.
- Obtaining dismissal of a claim against an educational institution in a lawsuit filed in federal court by an employee challenging discipline under the institution’s anti-sexual harassment policy.
- Obtaining dismissal of a claim against an educational institution in a lawsuit filed in state court by an employee alleging breach of a purported employment contract.
- Obtaining voluntary dismissal of a wage and hour putative class action filed against a company in the hospitality industry.
- Obtaining dismissal of a discrimination claim filed against a nonprofit organization in federal court.
- Representing a healthcare organization in enforcing a former employee’s confidentiality and non-solicitation obligations.
- Representing a healthcare organization in connection with putative wage and hour class actions in federal and state court.
- Representing a nonprofit organization in connection with response to third-party subpoena seeking personnel records.
- Representing a nonprofit organization in connection with corrections of independent contractor misclassification.
- Representing a professional association in an EEOC mediation relating to allegations of age discrimination.
- Representing a public employee union in connection with disciplinary proceedings against union members.
- Representing a nonprofit organization in connection with corrections of misclassifications of FLSA/overtime status.
- Obtaining a defense verdict after trial of a case alleging failure to accommodate and unlawful termination due to disability.
- Obtaining a defense verdict after trial of a case alleging failure to promote based on race discrimination and retaliation for the assertion of First Amendment rights.
- Defeating class certification in a race discrimination action.
- Winning summary judgment and creating Second Circuit law favorable to employers in a novel case alleging discrimination based on sexual stereotyping.
- Obtaining voluntary dismissal of class action complaint alleging that participants in pension plan had received service credit for less than the total period of time for which they worked.
- Winning summary judgment in an action alleging failure to pay severance benefits due to a large class of employees under a purported employee benefit plan.
Patterson Belknap employment lawyers regularly conduct sensitive internal corporate investigations related to allegations of age, race, disability, and gender discrimination issues; disability accommodation issues; claims of harassment; retaliation; and claims arising under whistleblower policies, among others. Our lawyers regularly conduct workplace investigations for clients in a wide variety of industries including consumer products, education, healthcare and health services, legal services, nonprofit organizations, pharmaceuticals, professional organizations, and sports, among others. In wake of the #MeToo Movement, we have represented several clients in connection with reclaims arising out of the movement, and we are frequently retained to conduct complex internal investigations in connection with allegations of workplace harassment and employee misconduct.
Examples of recent Patterson Belknap workplace investigation matters include:
- Counseling universities in connection with investigations of faculty members, students, and staff accused of sexual harassment or misconduct, and providing related counsel on Title IX compliance.
- Investigating allegations of sexual misconduct involving a nominee to a potential award, which involved coordinating with third party investigators and a public relations team to advise on a communications strategy regarding the investigation.
- Investigating complaints involving the Chief Executive Officer of a major nonprofit corporation.
- Conducting internal investigations into claims of alleged discrimination and bullying by senior executives of various nonprofit organizations.
- Counseling professional organizations on investigating and responding to allegations of sexual harassment or misconduct by members.
- Conducting internal investigations of allegations of workplace discrimination, sexual harassment, and implicit bias on behalf of law firms and nonprofit legal organizations.
- Conducting an internal investigation of allegations of age, race, disability, and gender discrimination, and retaliation on behalf of global healthcare company.
- Investigating allegations arising under the False Claims Act and state whistleblower laws, and allegations of retaliatory termination.
- Conducting several investigations related to complaints of mistreatment by employees of a sports organization.
- Representation of a client in a USDA enforcement investigation.
Patterson Belknap has an active counseling practice to help employers ensure that they are in compliance with workplace laws and minimize the legal risks that accompany sensitive individual or group employment decisions. Our employment lawyers regularly provide counsel to employers in implementing changes to comply with evolving federal, state, and local employment laws. Our lawyers provide advice, counsel, and trainings to our clients to help prevent and address claims arising out of the #MeToo movement. We advise employers on classification and other compliance issues under wage and hour laws. We consult with clients on cases involving requests for accommodation by employees with disabilities or on the obligations to employees seeking leave time. We also work closely with in-house counsel, human resources professionals, and line managers to minimize the legal risks involved in sensitive individual employee terminations and separation agreements, in addition to onboarding issues. We help our clients navigate complex corporate employment issues in connection with restructuring and implementations of reductions in force. We regularly advise boards of directors in connection with employment agreements for C-Suite executives and transitions by Chief Executive Officers, including involuntary terminations that can create reputational risk for the enterprise. We also advise board leadership and audit committees in connection with whistleblower allegations and related investigations.
Our attorneys are experienced in evaluating the risks involved when a company wishes to employ an individual who has signed a noncompete agreement. We also negotiate and draft employment policies and manuals, employment contracts and severance agreements, and investigate and assess the employment aspects of acquisitions and divestitures. We regularly update employee personnel manuals to ensure compliance with recent employment-related legislation and best practices.
Examples of key employment issues in which we frequently provide counseling and training include:
- Disability and accommodations
- Discrimination and harassment issues
- Employee handbooks and policies
- Hiring, terminations and onboarding
- Leave laws
- Non-compete and non-solicit agreements
- Pay equity
- Reductions in force
- Wage and hour laws