Employment laws are dynamic and constantly change based on government agencies and courts issuing new rulings and legal interpretations. Lawsuits brought by former and current employees can result in significant financial and other damages being awarded to a plaintiff or plaintiffs at the expense of an employer, which can put a company at risk. While many employers are capable of handling small employment matters in house, when matters become more complicated and can make or break the business, calling an experienced employment lawyer is required. Even the most independent and conscientious employer will occasionally need help from an employment lawyer. There are many common situations in which consulting a knowledgeable Houston employment lawyer will save a business from unnecessary stress and financial damage.
There are many laws that must be followed when making difficult employment decisions. Minimizing the risk of a lawsuit is essential to keeping a business running smoothly. For example, if an employer needs to fire an employee for performance issues, misconduct, or other unwanted behavior, but the employer is concerned about that employee suing the company for wrongful termination, an employment lawyer should be consulted before terminating that employee. An experienced Houston employment lawyer can advise business owners and operators on the legality of firing individuals like these and others, and explain what steps a company can take to minimize its employment litigation exposure.
An employment lawyer should be consulted in the following termination scenarios:
- The employee has an employment contract limiting the right to be fired
- The employee believes they have an implied employment contract limiting the right to be fired
- The employee has stock options, benefits, or retirement money that are due to vest shortly
- The employee recently filed a complaint or claim against the company with a government agency
- The employee recently filed a harassment or discrimination claim
- The company’s demographics would change significantly if the employee is fired
- The employee recently revealed that they are in a protected class
- The security of the company would be at risk of vandalism, sabotage, or violence if the employee is fired
- The employee has access to trade secrets or competitive information
- The employee denies the misconduct or poor performance for which they are being fired, even after a thorough investigation
- The employee has hired their own lawyer to represent them in dealing with the employer
Many more situations may require consulting an employment lawyer in regards to firing an employee. If there are any doubts or concerns when it comes to an employee termination, consult a Houston employment lawyer before moving forward. Additionally, if the business conducts layoffs of groups of employees, coordinating that process with an employment lawyer will help protect the business from future litigation.
Employers are required to classify their employed positions as exempt or nonexempt or indicate the position is to be filled by independent contractors. There are many requirements for these classifications and using the wrong classification can have serious legal and financial consequences. If an employer fails to pay overtime to an employee due to misclassification, there can be penalties and years of unpaid wages. Before classifying a position, you should seek guidance from an employment lawyer.
When Employers Need Employment Lawyers
When a lawsuit cannot be avoided and a current or former employee sues the company, an employment lawyer will play a critical role in representing the company’s interests. Employment lawyers know what actions need to be taken immediately to ensure an employer’s rights are protected and evidence is preserved that might be required in court. Many courts require formal responses to be filed within weeks of being notified of a lawsuit. An employment lawyer can quickly file a response for the company while gathering the required documentation and evidence.
An employee may end up filing a claim or complaint against their employer that falls just short of a lawsuit. An administrative charge of discrimination, retaliation, or harassment filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or a similar organization could be devastating for a company that does not have legal representation. A former employee may also appeal an unemployment benefits denial and could request a hearing. While these may seem like easily handled administrative matters, the employee may have a strong claim the company is not prepared to fight. Often, an agency investigation, evidence collection, and other such processes are involved.
Business owners often have employment related contracts and other written or oral agreements. Many are routinely used with employees, including employee policies, employment contracts, benefits documents, severance agreements, and releases. A Houston employment lawyer can review the legal documents used by an employer to ensure they contain appropriate and legally enforceable language. If there is language that could be problematic in court, an employment lawyer will be able to bring it to the attention of the employer and can propose edits to the documents. Employers will often have an employee handbook that outlines company policies, including benefits information, how to clock-in and clock-out, paycheck schedule, etc. An employment lawyer can review company policies for compliance and suggest additions or edits.
Houston Employment Lawyers for Employers
Feldman & Feldman focuses on providing employers with legal guidance regarding a variety of employment-related issues. Employment disputes can be lengthy and expensive, so employers of all sizes can greatly benefit from litigation avoidance training. We work with public and private businesses of all sizes to help prevent Houston employment litigation and represent employers if legal disputes do arise. Our experienced trial lawyers have extensive experience successfully representing companies and organizations in complex employment matters. If your company is facing litigation, contact our legal team today.