The contemporary workplace is rapidly evolving and the risk of employment-related disputes is greater than ever in the current environment. Navigating this shifting landscape requires the advice and guidance of highly-skilled employment litigation attorneys.
Dunlap Bennett & Ludwig provides comprehensive legal services to employers and employees in Washington, D.C, Virginia and throughout the United States. Our legal team advises businesses concerning their obligations under state and federal employment laws and helps employees enforce their rights under these laws.
We are highly experienced in handling employment law disputes in state and federal courts, including those involving:
- Employment Discrimination
- Wrongful termination
- Employment contracts
- Noncompete agreements
- Severance agreements
Our attorneys are well-versed in a variety of local, state and federal employment discrimination laws. At the federal level, employers must adhere to the following laws, among others:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
- The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
- The Pregnancy Discrimination (PDA)
In short, employers are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of legally protected characteristics — race, color, sex, national origin, religion, age (over 40), disability, and pregnancy, when making employment decisions. These prohibitions apply to hiring, terminating, promoting, demoting, compensating, or any other terms and conditions of employment. It is worth noting that many states have far more comprehensive rules that include characteristics such as marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information and medical conditions.
Before pursuing a discrimination lawsuit, an employee typically must file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or a similar state agency. If the claim is not resolved at this level, a lawsuit can be brought in federal or state courts.
In many states, employees work “at will.” This means that employees generally can be fired for any reason, at any time, or for no reason at all. Nevertheless, employers cannot terminate employees for any of the following reasons:
- Discrimination – Employers are prohibited from firing employees based on any legally protected characteristic under applicable employment discrimination laws
- Retaliation – Employees cannot be terminated for engaging in a legally protected activity, including complaining about discrimination, harassment, or dangerous work conditions, or for cooperating in a related complaint or legal proceeding
- Public Policy – Employers cannot terminate employees in violation of a public policy related to exercising a legal right, for refusing to break the law, or reporting illegal activity (whistleblowing)
- Breach of Contract – Employees cannot be terminated if they are working under an employment contract that includes provisions specifying the grounds for termination or making promises of job security
At times, employees, particularly executives, managers and salespeople, enter into contracts with employers that establish the terms and conditions of employment, thereby altering the typical “at will” nature of employment. Employment contracts often cover the following:
- Duties and responsibilities of the employee
- Employee benefits
- Paid time off
- Term of employment
- Grounds for termination
Additionally, many employment contracts contain a confidentiality provision that is designed to keep a company’s trade secrets, client lists and other confidential information private. In some cases, an employee may be required to sign a separate non-disclosure agreement (NDA).
Today, many businesses require employees to sign a non-compete agreement as a condition of employment. Generally, an employee agrees not to take a position with a client or competitor, for a certain amount of time, within a certain geographic area, after his or her employment ends. The employee may also agree not to start a business that will compete with the employer or attract the employer’s clients or customers.
In order for a non-compete to be legally binding it typically must (1) be reasonable regarding the time period and geographical area covered, (2) protect the employer’s legitimate business interests and (3) provide the employee with consideration or a benefit for complying.
When an employee is terminated, many employers require the individual to sign a severance agreement. The agreement typically includes a general release of claims. This prevents the terminated employee from filing a lawsuit against the employer in exchange for receiving severance pay. Since employees forfeit their right to sue, it is crucial to speak with an experienced employment law attorney before signing a severance agreement.
Legal Representation for Employers
Dunlap Bennett & Ludwig provides advice and counsel to clients ranging from closely held businesses to large corporations. Our legal team assists companies with creating and reviewing employment policies to ensure compliance with state and federal employment and labor laws. We also represent employers before the EEOC, the Department of Labor, or in state and federal courts when necessary. We are keenly aware that employment-related disputes must be resolved swiftly so that normal business operations can proceed.
Protecting the Rights of Employees
Our attorneys also represent employees in discrimination, wrongful termination and breach of contract claims. We know that employers have an unfair advantage because they often have powerful attorneys to defend these claims. We leverage our knowledge of employment law and negotiating skills to level the playing field. Our objective is to reach fair and reasonable solutions so that our clients can make a fresh start.
Employment Litigation Attorneys
At Dunlap Bennett & Ludwig, we believe that employers and employees need to understand their rights and responsibilities under state and federal employment laws. We work to educate our clients and strive to resolve employment-related disputes in a way that is fair and reasonable. Above all, we are dedicated to helping our clients create a positive work environment. Call our office or complete the contact form on our website to set up a consultation.