Workplace disharmony and disputes are detrimental to both employers and employees. Today's workplace requires compliance with numerous, complex, and intersecting federal, state, and local laws that prohibit discrimination and retaliation and that require meticulous compliance with multiple and, at times, cumbersome wage and hour laws. At Gonzalez, Shenkman & Buckstein, our attorneys work with employers, executives, and employees to make certain that all employment laws are complied with and that all earned compensation is paid and received.
Today's workplace requires attention to a myriad of intersecting and technical laws, rules, and regulations. Anti-discrimination laws, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and the Florida Civil Rights Act, as well as federal and state wage and hour laws, such as the Fair Labor Standards Act govern almost every workplace relationship. The employment attorneys at Gonzalez, Shenkman & Buckstein are sophisticated counselors and litigators who assist in avoiding litigation and, when necessary, aggressively litigating complex labor and employment disputes.
The employment attorneys at Gonzalez, Shenkman & Buckstein have significant experience handling single-plaintiff, multi-plaintiff and collective and class action cases involving discrimination, harassment, retaliation, whistleblower, wage and hour, restrictive covenant, breach of contract and employment tort claims. They have handled employment litigations and arbitration in many states and before many different state and federal courts as well as arbitral forums. The employment attorneys at Gonzalez, Shenkman & Buckstein have handled FINRA arbitrations in Florida, Texas, Mississippi, and New York; AAA arbitrations in Florida and New York, and represented clients in federal and state courts in multiple jurisdictions, including New York, New Jersey, Florida, and California.
The employment attorneys at Gonzalez, Shenkman & Buckstein have handled hundreds of claims on behalf of securities industry employees and obtained millions of dollars in recovery on their behalf. Securities industry employers and their registered personnel seeking representation concerning promissory note issues, deferred compensation, unpaid wages and commissions, defamatory Form U-5s, expungements, confidentiality agreements, non-solicit and non-competition agreements as well as compliance with a myriad of employment-related securities regulations routinely retain Gonzalez, Shenkman & Buckstein to help navigate the thicket of complex rules.
The employment attorneys at Gonzalez, Shenkman & Buckstein also provide valued counsel to clients on day-to-day issues such as employee discipline and termination, workplace investigations, wage and hour compliance, employment agreements, severance agreements, and recruitment practices. Some of the labor and employment practice areas that Gonzalez, Shenkman & Buckstein routinely provide counsel concerning are set forth below.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Title VII, as it is generally called, prohibits discrimination in the workplace. Employers are prohibited from making employment decisions, such as hiring, promoting, demoting, compensating, and terminating employees on the basis of an individual's race, color, national origin, ethnicity, religion, or gender. An employer who violates Title VII may be liable for back pay, front pay, emotional distress damages, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorneys' fees, not to mention the monetary and non-monetary costs associated with defending employment claims.
It is critically important for both employers and employees to understand these laws and to make certain that all employment decisions are legitimate and non-discriminatory. Similarly, Title VII prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee who complains about discrimination in the workplace. Title VII, however, is not a civility code nor does it require fairness. Often, employment litigation under Title VII concerns whether an adverse employment action is discriminatory or whether it was a legitimate non-discriminatory employment action. We have handled hundreds of Title VII cases on behalf of employers and employees and are uniquely qualified to ascertain whether an employee has a claim and whether an employer has exposure concerning workplace decisions.
The Americans with Disabilities Act
Much like Title VII protects against race, color, national origin, and gender discrimination, the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities. Whether an employee is a qualified individual with a disability and what steps, if any, an employer must engage in to accommodate the known disabilities of an applicant or employee requires sophisticated analysis concerning these highly fact-based issues.
Whether an individual has an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity, whether an employee can perform the essential functions of the job, and whether an employer can provide an accommodation that is reasonable and not an undue hardship are some of the many thorny issues that employees and employers must navigate when trying to comply with the ADA as well as its state law analog, the Florida Civil Rights Act.
The Family and Medical Leave Act
Unlike Title VII and the ADA, both of which govern employers with fifteen (15) employees, the FMLA only applies to employers who have fifty (50) or more employees within a seventy-five-mile radius. The FMLA also has specific regulations as to what employees are entitled to take the protected leave and when. With that said, employers and employees are routinely involved in disputes concerning alleged interference with FMLA rights and retaliation based on attempting to exercise FMLA rights. The employment attorneys at Gonzalez, Shenkman & Buckstein regularly counsel employers on compliance with the FMLA as well as provide employees with counsel on their rights under the FMLA.
Florida has a private-sector whistleblower law. The law applies to employers with ten (10) or more employees and prohibits an employer from taking an adverse employment action against an employee who objects to or opposes a violation of a law, rule, or regulation. What constitutes protected oppositional conduct and what laws, rules, or regulations are contemplated by the law requires sophisticated analysis. In additional to Florida state law claims, many federal statutes provide protection for employees who engage in good faith whistleblowing activity. These federal whistleblower protection statutes include the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the Dodd-Frank Act. The employment attorneys at Gonzalez, Shenkman & Buckstein have handled many whistleblower claims under federal and state law on behalf of employers, executives, and employees.
Wage and Hour Litigation
Employers and employees are often embroiled in litigation concerning compliance with wage and hour laws. Similarly, employers and employees often are at odds about whether a bonus, a commission, or deferred compensation is earned and owing. We have spent the last twenty years prosecuting and defending claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). Whether an employee is properly classified as an exempt employee, whether an employee is entitled to overtime compensation, how to calculate overtime payments, when must payments be made, and how to comply with new Department of Labor regulations are some of the many issues that the employment attorneys at Gonzalez, Shenkman & Buckstein handle on a daily basis.
Employment, Ownership, and Restrictive Covenant Agreements
It is often said that the best defense is a good offense. Well, the best way to avoid a contractual dispute or litigation concerning a contractual obligation is to thoughtfully negotiate the terms of the contract or agreement. Whether it is a partnership agreement, a shareholders agreement, an operating agreement, a confidentiality agreement, a non-solicitation or non-competition agreement, a deferred compensation agreement, an equity purchase agreement, or a commission or bonus agreement, the employment attorneys at Gonzalez, Shenkman & Buckstein are experienced and skilled at reviewing and negotiating agreements to the benefit of its employer and employee clients. A thoughtful review of the proposed terms of these agreements before execution is invaluable in generating and retaining wealth and in continuing to work in a similar industry after an agreement or employment relationship concludes.
Similarly, the employment attorneys at Gonzalez, Shenkman & Buckstein have extensive experience in providing counsel to employers and employees on whether an agreement is enforceable and, if so, ways in which to conduct oneself to insure compliance and avoid litigation.
Securities Industry Employment Matters
Securities industry employers and employees are governed by unique rules and are generally required to litigate their matters in a unique forum – FINRA arbitration. When a securities industry employer is contemplating terminating an employee or when a securities industry employee is terminated, there are additional profound issues that must be considered. As just one critically important example, securities industry employers are required to file a Form U-5 when it terminates the employment of a registered employee. That filing, if inaccurate, can give rise to tortious interference and defamation claims. Similarly, often confidentiality, non-compete, non-solicit, and misappropriation of trade secret issues arise when a registered representative departs for another broker-dealer or firm. Many firms are members of the Broker Protocol, which provides very clear rules of engagement when a registered representative leaves one securities firm in favor of a competitor. Bonus, compensation, deferred compensation, commission, and promissory note claims also often arise when a registered employee departs a broker-dealer or Member Firm. The employment attorneys at Gonzalez, Shenkman & Buckstein counsel employers and employees on a daily basis concerning these matters and have handled hundreds of claims on behalf of registered representatives resulting in millions of dollars in recovery.
Counseling, Training, Prevention
Our most satisfied employer-clients are those that have worked with us to establish policies, procedures, and mechanisms to avoid time-consuming and costly litigation. Classifying an employee properly, promptly and thoroughly attending to an employee complaint, and thoughtfully considering an employment action before implementing it will serve an employer well and dramatically reduce the costs, monetary and otherwise, associated with workplace litigation. We encourage employers to contact the employment attorneys at Gonzalez, Shenkman & Buckstein to discuss ways in which to minimize exposure to workplace disputes and employment-related claims.
Contact the attorneys at Gonzalez, Shenkman & Buckstein for counseling and representation in all aspects of labor and employment, at (561) 227-1575 or contact us online.