Practice/Industry Group Overview
Making the Most of Your Greatest Asset
If people are truly every business’ greatest asset, then people issues are critical to every business’ success or failure. Legal surprises can affect morale, productivity and, eventually, the bottom line. We work with our clients to prevent or reduce liability, to avoid the morale-sapping conflicts that too often come with labor and employment legal issues.
With one of the most experienced labor practices in the Southeast, Burr & Forman has been at the forefront of developments in labor and employment law for more than half a century; our practice extends nationwide. The Burr Labor and Employment Practice Team is a top tier practice ranked by Chambers USA and includes four fellows in the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers: John Coleman, Marcel Debruge, Fred Ingram, and Frank McRight. Burr attorneys have represented employers before almost every government agency, as well as in dozens of state and federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court.
We advise clients in areas such as:
- Qualified Retirement Plans - Design, draft, and maintain retirement plans qualified under ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code. Also assist clients with operational issues.
- Health Care Reform - Assist clients with planning and keeping up-to-date on the ongoing changes associated with Health Care reform.
- Welfare Plans - Design, draft, and assist with operational issues associated with all forms of ERISA welfare plans (such as health plans and cafeteria plans).
- COBRA - Assist clients with COBRA compliance.
- HIPAA - Assist clients with HIPAA compliance.
- Executive Compensation - Design, draft, and maintain all forms of non-qualified executive and/or incentive compensation packages.
- 409A Compliance - Advise clients with respect to 409A compliance and its effect on deferred compensation.
- Severance Compensation - Advise clients with designing and drafting severance compensation packages.
- Employment Litigation - Provide employers with compliance advice regarding the myriad of federal and state employment laws and regulations and defends employers from a variety of industries in matters ranging from individual claims to the most complex class and collective actions involving dozens to thousands of employees.
Areas of emphasis include:
- Workers compensation
- Employment class actions and collective actions
- Hostile work environment/harassment
- OSHA citation and warrant-based litigation
- Age discrimination under federal and state law
- Race discrimination
- Unfair labor practice and representation litigation
- Gender discrimination
- Disability discrimination
- Wage and hour
- Non-competition agreements and trade secrets
- Employment-related torts
- Strike injunctions
- Collective bargaining agreement under Sec. 301 and hybrid claims
- LMRA Sec. 303 claims
- Wildcat strike damage claims
- Labor arbitrations
- Employment arbitrations
- Wage and Hour - Advise and defend employers from numerous industries in litigation brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Defend employers against claims of unpaid overtime pay and employee misclassifications, including decertification of a FLSA collective action alleging unpaid overtime pay on behalf of a major automaker. Provide preventative counseling concerning wage and hour matters, including advising employers on job descriptions and employee FLSA exemption classification.
- Employment Policies and Procedures - Assist employers with the development of policies and procedures, including employee handbooks and manuals that comply with state and federal law.
- Occupational Safety and Health - Advise and assist employers with OSHA investigations and access disputes as well as litigating challenged citations. Litigate on behalf of employers in major OSHA litigation ranging from the successful defense of a Florida paper mill to the Milwaukee Brewers's domed stadium.
- Preventative Counseling - Help employers take the necessary steps to prevent potential liability by providing guidance to employers on day-to-day issues, including employee discipline and termination, leave management, regulatory compliance, and wage and hour matters.
- Class, Collective, and Multi-Party Actions - Defend and resolve class, collective, and multi-party claims on behalf of employers.
- Workers Compensation - Advise and defend employers in workers compensation disputes, including state law retaliatory discharge actions.
- EEOC Proceedings - Assist employers with the development of position statements in response to charges of discrimination filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and defend employers in litigation brought by the Commission alleging discrimination and retaliation.
- Disability Management - Assist employers in developing disability management programs addressing Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) compliance measures, medical inquiry issues, and workers compensation concerns.
- Employment Contracts - Advise, negotiate, and prepare employment contracts on behalf of employers, including initial contracts of employment for executives and top management, as well as separation and severance agreements.
- Management Training - Conduct training programs and presentations for management level employees regarding traditional labor matters, employment discrimination and harassment, disability management, occupational safety and health, and workplace diversity.
- Immigration - Assist employers with obtaining necessary visas, green cards, and other employment documentation for their employees. Advise regarding I-9 compliance and counsel during immigration audits.
- Affirmative Action Programs and OFCCP Compliance - Assist federal contractors and subcontractors in preparing annual affirmative action plans (AAP's) utilizing statistical analyses and data assessments. Counsel federal contractor clients during OFCCP compliance activity, including, but not limited to, desk audits and onsite visits.
- Non-Competition Agreements - Prepare and counsel employers regarding non-competition agreements, including providing guidance on issues associated with the hiring and firing of employees who have executed non-compete agreements or other restrictive covenants. Represent employers in seeking or defending against injunctive relief under such agreements.
- Selection and Hiring of Employees - Advise employers regarding the sometimes complex process and issues involved with selection, hiring, and retention of employees.
- Managing Workforce Diversity - Advise managing workplace diversity issues. Conduct training sessions on workplace diversity, leadership, and equal treatment.
- Mergers and Acquisitions - Advise on all labor and employment-related aspects of mergers and acquisitions, including the negotiation of employment agreements, changes in policies and procedures, potential successorship liability, and related labor issues.
- Site Selection and New Facility Start-up Planning and Execution - Guide companies through every step of the site selection and start-up process. Answer start-up questions ranging from advice on the available labor market to hiring procedures to available state resources.
- Reductions in Force and Restructuring - Counsel and advise employers on planning and executing compliant reductions in force, job restructuring and other workforce changes, while ensuring compliance with the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN), Older Worker Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA), Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), and other laws and regulations. Defend employers in employee downsizing litigation from Arizona to Florida.
- Unemployment Compensation - Counsel employers on employee unemployment compensation matters, including representation at unemployment compensation hearings and appeals. Assist employers in navigating state unemployment compensation laws and potential pitfalls that can arise when challenging unemployment compensation agency decisions.
Traditional Labor Relations
- Union Campaigns - Represent management in union representation campaigns, and those clients confronted with all types of union organizing activity. Assist employers in organizing successful union campaigns ranging from such distinct locations as Conway, Arkansas and North Chicago, Illinois.
- Unfair Labor Practice Proceedings - Handle unfair labor practice proceedings before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on behalf of employers in a wide variety of industries.
- Site Selection and New Facility Start-up Planning - Counsel to new companies on the available labor market and labor relations, as well as devise lawful strategies regarding handling third party activity.
- Grievance Arbitrations - Handle arbitration of employee grievances at each stage, provide counsel, conduct the arbitration, and submit post-hearing briefs and materials.
- Strikes, Picketing and Boycotts - Assist employers in preparing for a strike or other work stoppage by working with management to make advance preparations and then assisting with the execution of the strategy as required.
- Management Training - Provide programs, presentations and training to management strategically designed to create positive employee relations between management and employees to minimize unionization risk.
- Collective Bargaining and Contract Negotiations - Assist employers in every aspect of the collective bargaining process, from negotiation of specific terms to interpretation and application of contract provisions.
- Workforce Assessment and Analysis - Conduct workplace assessments to determine workforce issues that may lead to third party activity while providing advice and training regarding lawful union avoidance strategies.
- Temporary and Permanent Visas - Assist clients in the preparation of business, professional and immigrant visas including, but not limited to, H-1B, TN, L, E, O, P and R visa applications and I-140 immigrant petitions, I-485 applications, DS-156, DS-230 and DS-260 applications and pre-entry B-1 applications.
- Labor Certifications - Assist clients in the preparation of PERM ETA-9080 labor certification applications.
- Citizenship Matters - Assist clients in gaining U.S. citizenship.
- Consular Representation - Represent clients in matters dealing with U.S. consulates abroad.
- Family-based Immigration - Assist clients with I-130 immigrant petitions for family members.
- I-9 Workplace Compliance - Advise employers on compliance procedures and work eligibility as it relates to the requirements under federal law provisions, including advising on state and federal E-Verify requirements.
Jury Trial Experience
Our L&E group regularly defends employers before juries. Jury cases involving disability discrimination include the defense of the first ADA case tried to a jury in Alabama and the leading case on reasonable accommodation, a variety of race discrimination and sex discrimination cases involving everything from simple misconduct to internet porn, the first successful defense of automotive manufacturers from Europe and Asia in such cases, a recent victory for a major manufacturer in a retaliation case very similar in time and facts to one we did not defend that resulted in a multi-million dollar verdict, and a multitude of successful state law retaliatory discharge cases in a variety of jurisdictions.
Articles Authored by Lawyers at this office:
Alabama Passes Bill Blocking Birmingham Minimum Wage Ordinance
H. Carlton Hilson, March 09, 2016
On Thursday, February 25, 2016, Governor Robert Bentley signed a bill that immediately blocks Alabama cities from setting their own minimum wage rates. The bill was passed by the Alabama Senate earlier in the day by a 23-11 vote. The bill, titled the Uniform Minimum Wage and Right-to-Work Act, was...
Birmingham City Council Votes to Raise Minimum Wage to $10.10
H. Carlton Hilson, March 07, 2016
One of the most important decisions to be made when entering into a new business venture is the vehicle to be used to carry on the business. The choice you make will have a significant impact on the liabilities you are exposed to, the ease and flexibility of financing, the amount of income tax you...
Six Options for Complying with New DOL FLSA Salary Rules
Ronald W. Flowers, September 18, 2015
It is rare for an employee’s salary to double with one raise, yet, under the Department of Labor’s (DOL's) proposed rule, employers will need to double some employees’ salaries to continue to pay them salaries without overtime. By now, everyone has heard of the Department of...
NLRB Redefines and Broadens the Joint Employment Standard
John J. Coleman,Marcel L. Debruge,H. Carlton Hilson,Bryance Metheny,Matthew T. Scully, September 04, 2015
Just in time for Labor Day, the National Labor Relations Board’s (the Board) Democratic majority handed the organized labor movement one of its biggest legal victories in recent years. The decision radically redefines the concept of “joint employment” and potentially impacts, as...
Employee Relations, Title VII, and the Confederate Battle Flag
Gillian Watson Egan, August 27, 2015
Many workplaces situated below the Mason-Dixon line will employ both those who feel the Confederate flag is a vital part of their heritage and self-expression, and also those who see the Confederate flag as a symbol of racism, fear and intimidation. The issue and controversy surrounding Confederate...
Navigating the Treacherous Waters of Tipped Employee Wages
Michelli Rivera, August 07, 2015
As evening sets, many restaurants will find themselves bustling with customers and loyal patrons eager to put the day's work to rest. But while managers focus on reservations, inventory, food allergies, and table checks, obligations owed to employees are always present. The complex laws that govern...
Alabama's New Non-Compete Statute: Are You Ready For New Year's Day?
Devin C. Dolive,Bryance Metheny,Matthew T. Scully, July 16, 2015
Those involved in drafting, negotiating, or litigating covenants-not-to-compete in Alabama have long known that Alabama's statute books seldom provide ready answers on this particular topic. The text of current Alabama Code § 8-1-1, entitled "Contracts restraining business void;...
DOL Will Require Overtime for Employees Who Earn Less Than $50,000
Ronald W. Flowers,Bryance Metheny,M. Clark Spoden, July 15, 2015
In a much-anticipated move, on June 30, 2015, the Department of Labor issued a proposed rule requiring a weekly salary of at least $970.00, or $50,440.00 annually, for employees to be exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act's (FLSA's) overtime provisions under the common "white collar...
Supreme Court Strikes Down Same-Sex Marriage Bans
E. Travis Ramey, July 01, 2015
In a landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment requires states to license marriages between two people of the same sex and to recognize same sex marriages that were validly licensed in other states. The decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, written by Justice Kennedy,...
What the Same-Sex Marriage Ruling Means to Employers
M. Clark Spoden, July 01, 2015
The Supreme Court ruled today that state laws banning same sex marriage are unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. While this holding does not directly implicate employers or their policies, the ruling clearly means that persons legally married in any state,...