From complex class action litigation to individual discrimination cases, Schwartz Hannum’s litigators focus their insight on helping clients win cases. Our labor and employment attorneys appear regularly before state and federal courts, government agencies, and arbitration panels.
Members of our Litigation practice provide skilled representation through all phases of litigation, from discovery through trial, and appeal. Throughout the process, we remain focused on the client’s strategic objectives – using litigation as a means to achieve a solution that is tailored to the client’s goal. When appropriate, we also take advantage of opportunities to settle out of court through mediation, arbitration, and other resolution strategies.
Arbitration and Mediation
In many instances, employment-related contracts provide that any disputes arising under them must be resolved through private arbitration rather than court litigation. In other employment disputes, voluntary mediation is often an effective way of reaching a settlement with which both sides can be satisfied.
The Firm has obtained successful results for employers in both arbitration proceedings and mediations involving the full gamut of employment-related claims, including claims for breach of contract, employment discrimination and violation of other employment statutes. The Firm has also successfully handled grievance arbitrations pursuant to clients’ collective bargaining agreements with labor unions.
Complex Litigation (Class Actions)
The Firm’s experienced litigation attorneys have substantial experience in managing and defending class and collective actions, in myriad state and federal courts. These class and collective actions cover the full spectrum of employment claims, from claims of discrimination, to wage and hour violations, and other federal and state statutory claims, including (for example) alleged violations of the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act. The Firm has handled and successfully resolved numerous class actions and complex litigation matters.
We recognize the extreme pressures that are brought to bear on any organization that is targeted for a class action, and we employ our Firm philosophy to assist clients resolve these cases in a manner that best suits the client’s goals. This will typically include an appropriate up-front investigation of the facts and assessment of legal claims, careful case administration throughout, and strategic use of technology. We work closely with clients to develop the best expert witnesses, if needed, and attempt to tailor the discovery process to the client’s goals.
We have extensive trial and appellate experience, as well, and, when necessary, we also bring to bear our significant experience with public relations and crisis management.
The Firm also assists employers with techniques to avoid complex employment litigation such as counseling, mock audits, training and development and revision of employers’ policies and practices. Our analysis of each client’s risks of employment class actions includes a thorough review and analysis of human resources data, payroll data, and hiring, promotion and termination data, as well as a complete human resources compliance audit. We also provide extensive training and evaluations, to support these efforts and recommended best practices.
Employment Discrimination and Other Employment Litigation
At some point, virtually every employer is faced with a claim that it unlawfully discriminated against an employee or applicant, or that it violated its obligations under one of the many other federal and state employment laws. And many larger employers, unfortunately, are confronted with such claims on a routine basis. When such claims arise, the Firm is prepared to litigate aggressively for favorable outcomes for its clients, including, where necessary, through trials and appeals.
The Firm’s attorneys have extensive, wide-ranging experience in handling employment-related lawsuits. This experience includes litigating claims under the federal and state employment discrimination laws, as well as other statutory claims (e.g., under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act), and state law contract and tort claims.
The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”) imposes a myriad of complex disclosure, record-keeping and other requirements upon employers in relation to employee retirement and welfare benefit plans. The Firm’s attorneys have extensive experience in representing employers in litigation arising under ERISA, including claims for benefits and for discriminatory termination of employment in violation of the statute. In addition, the Firm helps employers to avoid such litigation by assisting them in establishing and administering employee benefit plans in compliance with ERISA.
In addition to its primary focus on labor and employment matters, the Firm counsels and represents businesses in other types of civil litigation. Such lawsuits include actions for breach of contract, violation of M.G.L. c. 93A (governing unfair or deceptive business practices), and collection matters.
Non-Competition and Trade Secret Litigation
Lawsuits that seek to enforce employee non-competition, non-solicitation and similar restrictive covenants turn on a complex variety of factors, including the nature of an employer’s business and an employee’s job responsibilities, the specific state laws that govern, and the predilections of individual judges.
The Firm has extensive experience representing employers in non-competition litigation, in both state and federal court. The Firm’s attorneys have obtained numerous injunctions enforcing such covenants on behalf of employers in a wide range of industries, including banking, manufacturing, restaurant, retail, and temporary staffing. Likewise, the Firm’s attorneys have successfully defended individual employees and their new employers in lawsuits seeking to enforce restrictive covenants.
The Americans With Disabilities Act and other federal and state statutes protecting disabled persons impose detailed and complex public accommodation requirements upon businesses. In particular, when employers build new facilities or renovate existing ones, these statutes often require that such work be carried out in compliance with specific construction specifications. If a business fails to meet these obligations, the result can be a costly lawsuit.
The Firm represents employers in all types of such litigation, as well as in government investigations concerning public accommodations issues. The Firm has successfully defended employers in a variety of industries in such cases. Additionally, the Firm’s attorneys work closely with clients to help them avoid such lawsuits by complying with applicable public accommodations laws.
Unemployment Compensation Appeals
The Firm regularly works with employers in connection with unemployment compensation matters. For instance, where an employer disputes a former employee’s statutory entitlement to unemployment compensation benefits, the Firm is available to advocate for the employer’s position at an appeal hearing before the Division of Unemployment Assistance (“DUA”). In addition, the Firm’s attorneys are experienced in representing employers with respect to other matters involving the DUA, including issues of excessive contribution rates and recovery analysis.