Our labor and employment attorneys help our clients navigate the ever-changing and increasingly complex array of laws, regulations, and court decisions that impact our clients’ daily operations. Harris Beach has long represented management in labor and employment disputes, successfully defending employers against employment-related claims and lawsuits. But just as importantly, we also partner with clients to help prevent issues, claims and conflicts: developing sound policy, delivering training, and strengthening positions at the bargaining table. Today, we have one of the largest and most active private and public sector labor practices in New York state, advising on both state and federal laws and mandates. Our cross-functional practice group also draws on experience with COVID-19 issues, cannabis policies, litigation matters, crisis management, workplace safety and immigration counsel for today’s global workforce.
Collective Bargaining and Other Organized Labor Issues
- Negotiate collective bargaining agreements
- Negotiate, draft and review individual employment contracts for private and public sector clients
- Represent employers in arbitration hearings
- Appear on behalf of employers at all levels of the court system, the National Labor Relations Board and the Public Employment Relations Board
Corporate Sales and Acquisitions
- Partner with our Corporate Practice Group to address labor and employment issues related to purchasing stocks and assets
- Counsel on successor employer obligations, planning for severance pay obligations, ERISA issues, pending discrimination claims, unfair labor practice charges and state and federal plant-closing laws
- Advise on statutory compliance with ERISA, COBRA and HIPAA related to employee benefits and benefit plans
- Guide employers dealing with employee leaves under regulations including the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and its various notice, posting and recordkeeping requirements
- Help evaluate and process leave requests and defend charges of FMLA discrimination and interference filed with the USDOL or in state and federal court
- Advise on employee leave issues that arise under the Americans with Disabilities Act and its state law counterparts, state workers’ compensation laws and/or military leave laws
Employers’ Rights and Union Organizing
- Assist with union prevention training and policy development to support union avoidance efforts
- Provide representation and counsel to employers whose non-union workforce may be turning to organized labor
- Counsel with respect to the lawful methods of communicating with employees regarding potential unionization
- Represent employers in National Labor Relations Board and Public Employee Relations Board proceedings related to union organizing
Employment at Will and Wrongful Discharge Litigation
- Advise on necessary personnel changes
- Represent clients when former employees make claims related to their discharge
- Handle claims arising from non-compete agreements or state or federal whistleblower laws
Employment Counseling and Policy Development
- Counsel on employee discipline and discharge, workplace investigations and other related issues
- Assist employers in developing personnel policies
- Guide process of reductions-in-force to ensure compliance with statutory requirements
- Help mitigate impact of layoffs on employee relations and company culture
- Draft policies and procedures governing non-solicitation, leaves of absence, drug testing, background checks, pre-employment testing, harassment, electronic communications and protection of confidential information and trade secrets
- Facilitate training on implementation of policies and procedures, including COVID-19
- Counsel on legal compliance with hiring, discipline and termination, employee compensation and benefits issues.
- Conduct compliance audits
Employment Discrimination Counseling and Defense
- Represent employers in federal and state courts and administrative agencies in employment discrimination matters regarding claims of discrimination, harassment and retaliation brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and other similar federal and state laws
- Provide trial and litigation experience in matters, including class action and multi-plaintiff, involving disability, age, gender, sexual harassment, national origin, race and religion
- Defend employers against discrimination charges brought before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, the New York State Division of Human Rights and related state agencies; while guiding employers through internal and external investigations
- Shape policy development to help prevent and eliminate harassment and discrimination in the workplace
- Design and deliver managerial and staff non-discrimination and anti-harassment training
Our attorneys offer legal counsel and assist businesses, employers, organizations, educational institutions, and individual professionals and researchers with immigration matters. These matters include I-9 compliance, general counsel on immigration benefits, filing and processing permanent U.S. residency and temporary visas, including H-1B, L, O, and TN temporary visas, NAFTA applications, transferee and other corporate immigration benefits related to overseas businesses and facilities, and adjustment of status documents.
Public Sector Employment
- Counsel employers who are subject to the rules and regulations of employing workers in the public sector, including issues arising from the Taylor Law, and the hiring, promotion, discipline, and discharge of employees under the New York Civil Service and Education Laws
- Represent employers in related administrative proceedings
Unfair Labor Practices/Improper Employer Practices
- Defend private and public employers against unfair labor/improper employer practice charges
- Handle appeals in federal and state courts
- Represent employers filing charges of unfair labor/improper practices against unions
- Counsel employers on federal and state minimum wage and overtime laws, the New York State Labor Law, including general regulations governing employment hours, conditions and pay
- Represent employers facing charges filed with state and federal Departments of Labor that allege violations of law
- Defend wage and hour lawsuits, including collective and class actions, involving such issues as overtime, missed/unpaid meal and break periods, prevailing wages, deductions from wages and other recordkeeping issues
- Conduct compliance audits and assist in determining proper application of requirements such as statutory minimum wage, record-keeping and overtime
Workplace Health and Safety
- Counsel employers on safety in the workplace, including federal and state Occupational Safety and Health Act issues, on-site workplace inspections, subpoenas and issues involving toxic materials and asbestos
- Represent clients in court or administrative proceedings before the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
- Advise employers who receive inquiries under the state’s Right To Know Law
- Counsel on other workplace health and safety issues, including workplace environmental hazards, violence in the workplace, drug and alcohol issues, cannabis use and communicable illnesses, including COVID-19
- Provide preventive legal advice and training for all levels of management
- Develop and review employee handbooks, office policies and work rules, including policies for COVID-19 and cannabis use
- Review personnel procedures for compliance with applicable laws and regulations
- Execute hands-on training for supervisors
Breach of Employment Contract
- Represented Defendant in case filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York where plaintiff alleged breach of employment contract and failure to pay wages in violation of NY Labor Law, and Defendant counter-claimed for $15,000 repayment of bonus. Successfully obtained summary judgment on behalf of Defendant including an award of counterclaim. Case proceeded to appeal and ultimately voluntarily dismissed by Plaintiff.
- Represented Defendant and one individual Defendant in class action breach of contract claim where plaintiffs alleged that they, and a group of similarly situated former employees, were denied certain retirement insurance and other benefits pursuant to applicable collective bargaining agreements. Successfully defended class certification motion and Plaintiffs agreed to voluntarily dismiss/withdraw claim without settlement.
- McMenemy v. City of Rochester (U.S. District Court): Summary judgment and attorneys fees obtained for codefendant in civil rights action.
- Paynter v. State of New York (N.Y.S. Supreme Court, N.Y.S. Appellate Division, New York State Court of Appeals): Summary judgment obtained on behalf of 23 suburban school districts on civil rights and constitutional claims.
Discrimination: Race, Disability, Age, Sexual Harassment
- Fullwood v. Sodexo, Inc. & SDH Services West, LLC (U.S. District Court): Summary judgment obtained for employer in a race discrimination and retaliation lawsuit.
- Barton v. Unity Health System (U.S. District Court and U.S. Court of Appeals for Second Circuit): Summary judgment obtained for employer in race and disability discrimination and retaliation lawsuit. Affirmed on appeal.
- Rojas v. Diocese of Rochester et al. (U.S. District Court and U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit): Summary judgment obtained for employer in lengthy sexual harassment and retaliation litigation under federal and state laws
- Smith v. Cadbury Beverages, Inc. (U.S. District Court and U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit): Summary judgment obtained for employer in race discrimination case.
- Saglian v. Allstate Insurance Co. (U.S. District Court): Summary judgment obtained for employer in age discrimination case.
- Hudson v. Western New York BICS Division of TOMRA (U.S. District Court and U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit): Summary judgment obtained for employer in age, race and disability discrimination case.
- Bennet v. Cinemark (U.S. District Court): Summary judgment obtained for employer in sexual harassment/disability discrimination case.
- ADA Website Accessibility Cases: Represented hotels, banks, restaurants, retailers, and other entities as Defendants in New York’s federal courts, and successfully resolved cases, where Plaintiff alleged Defendants’ websites failed to comply with the standards required under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the New York Human Rights Law and the New York City Human Rights Law.
Fair Labor Standards Act/NY Labor Law
- Represented Defendant in case filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York for unpaid wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act where Plaintiff alleged she was owed over six figures in unpaid overtime. Successfully obtained summary judgment on Defendant’s behalf under fluctuating workweek theory, and case was dismissed.
- Represented Defendant in case filed by 12 Plaintiffs in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York seeking unpaid wages and overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act and New York Labor Law, and alleging other violations of the New York Labor law.
- Represented two of three Defendants in class action claim by Plaintiff’s alleging failure to pay service charges as gratuities in violation of the New York Labor Law.
- Levine et al. v Unity Health System et al. (U.S. District Court): Summary judgment obtained for Employer in wage and hour class action lawsuit.
Non Compete/Restrictive Covenants
- Non compete and other restrictive covenant matters: Successfully represented several employers in court and in pre-litigation demands when enforcing restrictive covenants against former employees. Successfully defended employers against claims of tortious interference with contract when other companies attempted to enforce restrictive covenant against newly hired employee.
- Multi-state employee agreements, including restrictive covenant agreements: Assisted multi-state employers with drafting employment and restrictive covenant agreements for use across several states.
Title VII and the NY Human Rights Law
- Represented Defendant and one individual Defendant in case filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York where plaintiff alleged gender, national origin and race discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII and the NY Human Rights Law. Successfully obtained summary judgment on behalf of all defendants, and case was dismissed.
- Represented Defendant in case filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York where plaintiff alleged Town unlawfully retaliated against him in violation of Title VII, the NY Human Rights law, and 42 USC Section 1983. Successfully obtained summary judgment on behalf of Defendant, and case was dismissed.
- Represented Defendant in case filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York where plaintiff alleged hostile work environment and retaliation in violation of Title VII and the NY Human Rights Law. Plaintiff agreed to voluntarily dismiss/withdraw claim with prejudice, and without settlement.
- Represented Defendant and one individual Defendant in case where plaintiff alleged pregnancy discrimination and retaliation in violation of the NY Human Rights Law. Successfully obtained summary judgment on behalf of all Defendants, and case was dismissed.
Worker’s Comp Retaliation
- Workers’ Comp Retaliation Claims: Successfully represented employers against claims filed by former employees alleging wrongful termination in retaliation for filing NY workers’ compensation claims.
- Represented Defendant District in case where plaintiff claimed wrongful discharge in violation of NY Labor Law Section 740 and NY Civil Rights Law 44-a. Successfully obtained summary judgment on behalf of Defendant, and case was dismissed.