Employee issues threaten to reduce employee productivity and increase employer litigation costs. At Sutherland, we work with a broad range of clients to manage labor and employment issues with a practical, results-oriented approach tailored to our clients' objectives. Our clients include Fortune 100 companies from California to New York. Our employment practice ranges from major litigation to day-to-day problem solving for our clients in industries from automotive to telecommunications to retail, high-tech, and banking.
Lawyers in our Employment Group include members of the American Law Institute, two former Emory Law School professors, the authors of "Model Employee Policies and Forms for Georgia Employers," Georgia Chamber of Commerce HR Compliance Library (2006), and the authors of "Covenants Not to Compete, Non-Disclosure Covenants, and Other Restrictive Covenants Under Georgia Law." Many of our attorneys have been law clerks to federal judges.
Sutherland's employment team has handled hundreds of cases all across the country in dozens of industries over the past 25 years. Our attorneys have represented employers in class actions and virtually every type of case faced by employers. Our lawyers have successfully tried all types of employment discrimination cases, including claims of sexual harassment; race, age, sex, pregnancy and disability discrimination; retaliation; and reverse discrimination. In addition, we have tried numerous cases involving covenants not-to-compete, restrictive covenants, trade secrets, negligent hiring and retention, and breach of employment contracts.
In addition to litigation, we represent employers in alternative dispute resolution forums, such as mediation and arbitrations, and we provide counseling in compliance and risk reduction.
The employment team at Sutherland has seen that personnel problems often can be reduced and avoided by providing managers and supervisors with the proper training. We conduct training programs for our clients at their facilities, as well as group seminars. In addition, our attorneys issue legal alerts to notify clients quickly when a new legal development may affect their employment practices.
We have defended employers in a wide variety of claims brought under civil rights and other federal, state and local laws. Representative cases include disputes involving:
- Hiring, promotion, testing, termination and discipline
- Discrimination based on race, sex, religion, national origin, age and disability
- Overtime and other wage-and-hour issues
- Reasonable accommodation of disabled employees
- Sexual and other forms of prohibited harassment
- Negligent hiring and retention
- Family and medical leave
- Seniority systems
- Reductions in force
- Sarbanes-Oxley and other whistleblower matters
Our lawyers also have defended employers in cases across the country involving disputes based upon employment agreements, as well as employment-related tort claims.
We have addressed matters that include:
- Post-employment restrictive covenants, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty
- Allegations of intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy and defamation
- Allegations of misappropriation of trade secrets and confidential business information
- Allegations of tortious interference with contractual or business relationships
- Allegations of employee raiding
Examples of recent matters our firm lawyers have handled include the following:
- Reductions in Force – We obtained summary judgment for a major manufacturer in numerous cases brought after the company closed operations at one location; Sutherland lawyers designed a system for reduction in force for a large company following several acquisitions.
- Sarbanes-Oxley Whistleblower Actions – We successfully represented a Fortune 500 company in a SOX whistleblower matter; we advised several other clients on SOX whistleblower internal investigations.
- Class Actions – Our lawyers defended a large municipality in a reverse-discrimination putative class action, in which we successfully kept the class from being certified; we negotiated extremely favorable and fast settlement of a potentially sizeable FLSA collective action for an international retailer.
- Multi-Plaintiff Discrimination Suit – We successfully resolved a case brought against an independent broker-dealer by 11 former employees, all alleging direct evidence of harassment and discrimination based on race, gender and national origin; our lawyers obtained summary judgment on all claims for a Fortune 100 company in an 18-plaintiff lawsuit alleging race and age discrimination and harassment.
- Restrictive Covenants – We successfully defended one of the world's largest insurance brokerage and consulting firms against allegations of tortious interference and breach of non-compete agreements; our firm enforced restrictive covenants and protected trade secrets on behalf of a large insurance company.
Alternative Dispute Resolution and Litigation
Firm lawyers have extensive experience with alternative methods of dispute resolution such as arbitration and mediation. We have an impressive track record of obtaining summary disposition of cases prior to trial.
Inevitably, however, some cases cannot be resolved short of trial. The following is a sample of recent cases we have tried:
- Race Discrimination – We successfully defended a major automotive manufacturer in a trial in New Jersey federal court against claims of race discrimination and retaliation.
- Gender Discrimination – The firm obtained a jury verdict in favor of a Fortune 50 company in a case in Nashville involving allegations of sex discrimination and harassment that was alleged to have occurred over an eight-year period.
- Sexual Harassment – We tried a sexual harassment case in Rome, Georgia, on behalf of a major railroad, involving allegations of sexual battery against a high-level executive. The plaintiff offered to settle midway through an expected two-week jury trial for an amount that was less than opposing counsel's legal fees.
- Race Discrimination – We tried a race discrimination and harassment case for a large manufacturer before a jury in Norfolk, Virginia, resulting in a complete dismissal of the former employee's $7 million claim.
- Reverse Discrimination – Our attorneys successfully defended one of the largest school systems in Georgia in trials involving claims of reverse race discrimination and age discrimination.
- Change of Control – We successfully defended an international corporate client in a 16-employee covenant-not-to-compete case involving complex change-of-control and successor liability issues.
Firm lawyers have successfully defended employers against class certification in employment discrimination actions throughout the country. We also have represented employers in numerous injunction and TRO hearings in trade secrets, non-compete and employment agreement cases across the country.
We recognize that many labor and employment problems arise without warning and require immediate legal advice. Our attorneys place special emphasis on being readily available and responsive to clients calling for advice. We understand that quick action can be the best way to avoid a lawsuit.
In assisting clients with day-to-day employment practices and policies, Sutherland partners with clients to identify the client's primary objectives and fashion pragmatic solutions.
Our team provides assistance in matters that include:
- Executive compensation agreements
- Personnel policies and employee handbooks
- Dispute resolution systems
- Drug testing programs
- Family and Medical Leave Act policies
- Employee misconduct investigations
- Workforce reductions and plant closings
- Wage-and-hour issues
- Affirmative action plans
- COBRA and state continuation-of-coverage laws
- Employment, non-compete and separation agreements
- Employment issues arising from mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures
- Change integration
- Corporate governance, including Sarbanes-Oxley and other whistleblower issues and investigations
We represent employers in response to government inquiries, whether it is an OFCCP audit, a DOL wage-and-hour audit, or a surprise visit from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. We routinely provide assistance to our clients to ensure that they are in compliance with the various employment laws.
© 2013 Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP