The Role of an Employer Defense Attorney: Protecting Your Business Interests

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There comes a time for many business owners where they will face a dispute with an employee — whether it be related to wages, hours, the Family and Medical Leave Act, or alleged discrimination claims. Accordingly, if you own a business and hire employees, it’s important to have an employer defense attorney by your side you know you can rely on. Not only can an employer defense attorney help you resolve disagreements with workers, but they can also assist you with implementing mitigation measures to avoid such issues before they arise.

What is an Employer Defense Attorney?

When a business owner faces an employment lawsuit, their reputation and profit margin are both at risk. An employer defense attorney can provide the legal representation needed to handle these legal issues swiftly and efficiently. By working with counsel who focuses on employment matters, you can ensure your company is protected from the risk of liability.

It’s critical to understand that an employer defense attorney doesn’t only deal with disputes when they occur. They can help ensure your business has the proper legal and regulatory safeguards in place to prevent them from happening in the first place. There are numerous federal, state, and local laws that must be followed — and an attorney can help you understand your legal obligations when it comes to the ever-changing regulatory landscape.

What Kinds of Disputes Do Employer Defense Attorneys Handle?

While California is considered an “at-will” employment state, an employer may still be held responsible in the event they willfully or unknowingly disregard an employment-related law. Even though an employer or an employee may terminate the working relationship at any time, employees have many rights in the workplace. When disputes with past, current, or potential employees arise, it’s crucial to have an employment defense attorney who can provide the legal guidance you need to protect your business interests.

Some of the types of disputes an employer defense attorney will typically handle include the following:

  • Alleged discrimination issues — There are numerous federal and state laws that protect employees from discrimination in the workplace. Employment discrimination allegations can involve claims pertaining to race, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, age, religion, military status, and membership in other protected classes. When faced with these types of claims, an employer must be prepared to take immediate action to avoid the risk of harming the company’s reputation and bottom line.
  • Employment contract matters — Many different types of employment contract disputes can arise between an employer and employee. Whether the conflict involves a severance agreement, a restrictive covenant, a commission dispute, or a breach of any other type of contract, an employment defense attorney can help you mitigate liability or avoid it entirely.
  • Wage and hour violations — Wage and hour disputes can involve a broad scope of claims including unpaid overtime, failure to provide meal and rest breaks, illegal deductions, failure to pay minimum wage, and withholding wages. When faced with this type of dispute, it’s essential to have the representation of an attorney who understands the nuances of such claims.
  • Family and Medical Leave Act violations — The FMLA provides employees with a variety of protections, including unpaid job-protected leave to deal with a medical issue or care for a sick family member. However, this law is highly nuanced, and these protections do not broadly apply under all circumstances. If you are facing allegations of an FMLA violation, it’s vital to have the counsel of an employer defense attorney who can assess your case and create a strong defense.
  • Wrongful termination — An employment relationship may be terminated for nearly any reason, as long as it is not illegal. If you’ve been accused of wrongfully terminating an employee, an employer defense attorney can guide you through the legal process of defending such claims and work to achieve a favorable result on your behalf.
  • Misclassification lawsuits — A common claim faced by employers has to do with employee misclassification. If you are facing an accusation that you have misclassified an employee as exempt or as an independent contractor, an employment defense attorney can help you resolve the dispute with minimal disruption to your company.

Notably, employment disputes can rise at any point during the employment relationship — including during the recruiting, hiring, training, promoting, and terminating processes. As an employer, it’s imperative to understand your legal obligations and ensure you have concrete policies in place to mitigate any disputes that can occur.

Why is it Important to Have an Employer Defense Attorney?

An employer defense attorney will evaluate your legal matter to create a tailored strategy that will achieve the best possible result. Sometimes, this means finding an alternative to litigation to meet your objectives. Alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation or arbitration can be useful in resolving employment disputes faster and more cost-effectively than litigation. In addition, because these processes are private, you can minimize the risk of harming your company’s reputation by publicly litigating a dispute in an open courtroom.

Mediation is a common way of resolving employment disputes. When this process is used, the employer and employee discuss the conflict in a non-adversarial environment, rather than in a public courtroom. A neutral third party, called a mediator, facilitates open and honest communication between both parties and helps them reach a resolution with which they are both satisfied. The mediator, however, is not a decision maker. He or she simply aids the parties in finding a settlement all can agree on.

Arbitration is another private process that can be used to resolve employment disputes. Similar to a “mini-trial,” arbitration takes place outside of court in front of a neutral third-party called an arbitrator who is selected by the employer and employee. Like a judge, the arbitrator evaluates the evidence and testimony presented to reach a determination. When arbitration is binding, both parties are expected to adhere to the arbitrator’s decision once it has been rendered. Please note that arbitration is required if the employee and employer have entered into an arbitration agreement. However, for an arbitration agreement between an employee and employer to be effective, it must adhere to numerous requirements and cannot be a condition of the employee’s employment. It is important to consult with counsel regarding any arbitration agreements you intend to provide to your employees to ensure that such an agreement is compliant and enforceable.

In many cases, employment-related conflicts can be resolved before they reach the litigation stage. An employment defense attorney will know the best course of action to address an employee’s claim and mitigate damages. If litigation is necessary, they will know how to represent your company’s interests at each phase, conduct discovery, take depositions, and advocate for your rights at trial.

Contact an Experienced Employer Defense Attorney

When faced with an employment dispute, an employer must take the necessary measures to protect their company from liability. The employment law attorneys at White & Bright, LLP are dedicated to assisting employers in California with a wide variety of employment matters and strive to obtain the best possible outcome in every case. We welcome you to contact or call us at (760) 747-3200 to learn more about our legal services.

Categories: Employment Law