Employment Litigation

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Tharrington Smith’s Employment Litigation lawyers handle an array of matters that arise from the employer‐employee relationship (employers, employees, applicants and former employees). Our work for both employers and employees gives us a firmer understanding of the potential issues and how they may be resolved. Examples of issues include discrimination, harassment, wrongful discharge, severance, breach of contract, retaliation and whistleblowing, confidentiality, non‐compete and non‐disclosure agreements, trade secrets, compensation and benefits, and post‐employment disputes. Drafting effective and clear employment agreements can be crucial to meet the parties’ needs and minimize costly and potentially damaging post‐employment claims. The attorneys at Tharrington Smith are ready to assist you with this important facet of your business or your career.

Should disputes arise, we will work to resolve them to avoid litigation, but if those efforts are unsuccessful, we will vigorously pursue all remedies available. We understand the costs of litigation and want you to make educated, smart decisions on the best course of action for you and your business. We regularly appear before federal, state, and appellate courts as well as local, state, and federal agencies (such as the EEOC) and in arbitration settings. We work closely with our clients to tackle their toughest problems to produce practical solutions.

We represent clients in these employment areas:

  • Discrimination
  • Harassment
  • Contract Disputes
  • Non‐competition, Non‐solicitation, Nondisclosure
  • Licensing / Regulatory / Administrative Matters
  • Severance
  • Releases
  • Post‐Employment disputes

Discrimination

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other federal laws prohibit employment practices that discriminate on the basis of age, sex, race, religion, national origin, disability, and sexual orientation. Intentional discrimination occurs when an employer purposefully takes action against an employee or applicant for employment because of a protected characteristic (some of which are listed above), such as failure to promote a person due to race or national origin. Disparate treatment results when an employer’s actions have a disproportionate impact on a protected group.

Employers are often exposed to employment discrimination claims when an employee files a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The filing of the charge (at no cost to the employee) triggers an investigation of the facts by the EEOC. The EEOC will request a position statement from the employer that explains the facts and defends its treatment of the employee. In the majority of cases, the EEOC will issue a Dismissal and Notice of Right to Sue, signaling that the EEOC will not sue, but the individual may within a prescribed period. In cases where the EEOC itself finds some merit to the charge, the EEOC may endeavor to obtain voluntary compliance with the employer and then may initiate litigation if no resolution is reached.

The EEOC may also find a pattern or practice of discrimination by an employer and may seek to alter an employer’s employment practices and policies in terms of recruitment, hiring, assignment and promotion.

Other federal laws under which discrimination may occur include the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Harassment

Claims alleging harassment are based on a protected characteristic such as sex (including pregnancy), where the evidence demonstrates unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or conduct that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to create an abusive or hostile work environment. Tharrington Smith attorneys are knowledgeable and experienced in matters arising from discrimination and harassment claims, whether such action occurs in the courts or before government agencies.

Non‐competition, Non‐solicitation, Nondisclosure

We can help you protect your proprietary information – a valuable business asset. We begin by drafting employment agreements, non‐disclosure agreements, covenants not to compete, and other legal methods for protecting confidential information. When disputes arise, we analyze the facts, apply the law and seek appropriate remedies, whether filing for injunctive relief or through negotiation, mediation, or litigation. We can also help you respond when a former employer challenges conduct under such agreements.

Severance, Releases and Avoiding Post-Employment Disputes

As an employer, you may choose to provide severance pay to a terminated employee to transition into a new job, particularly for employees with many years of service. Doing so may also provide you with a mechanism to obtain a release from the employee against claims arising out of the employment relationship and to define restrictions on the employee's post‐employment activities. We will assist you in this process by drafting severance agreements and releases that meet your needs. Careful drafting in close consultation with our clients and exploration of their objectives can maximize results and minimize exposure to post-employment disputes. Call on us to assist you in drafting appropriate and enforceable agreements and contracts that will survive post‐employment scrutiny.

As an employee, you may be presented with a severance or other agreement that contemplates legal review. We are familiar with these circumstances and can help you evaluate the terms and relative benefits of such agreements.

We work as local counsel with out-of- state and national law firms who need North Carolina lawyers with in‐state relationships and experience regarding these types of employment issues.